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General News of Thursday, 1 October 2009

Source: GNA

Mobile telecom operators to dominate internet market in Ghana

Accra, Oct. 1, GNA - Mobile telecom operators in Ghana are expected to dominate the internet market beginning 2012, on the back of 3G technology, WiMAX, and the undersea fibre optics rollout from next year, a report on telecom and internet market in Ghana said.

"Given the huge subscriber base of mobile telecom operators, they can easily become dominant players in the internet sector by offering access through their 3G platforms and possibly new wireless broadband platforms in addition, such as WiMAX," the report said.

WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access), is one of the fourth generation (4G) wireless replacements for cable-delivered internet and the other technology is LTE (Long Term Evolution). The report, from Australian-based Paul Budde Communications Pty Limited, dubbed: "Ghana - Telecoms Market Statistics and Forecast', was based on a study carried out in 2008 and published this year. It noted that by 2012, mobile operators in the country would be faced with saturation in the voice market and would be looking for additional revenue streams through new opportunities in the data (internet) market, on the back of the newly introduced 3G technology and WiMAX.

The report noted that the additional impetus for the telecom operators in the internet market would result from their dominance of fixed-line and fixed-wireless market, which promised access to broadband at affordable rates to people in the hinterlands. "The arrival of new international fibre optic undersea cables in Ghana in 2009, another area where mobile telecom operators command dominance in ownership, will dramatically reduce the cost of international bandwidth and lead to a steep increase in Internet usage," it said.

Ending 2008, Ghana had 1.1 million internet users, representing 4.9 per cent penetration of the country's 23.1 million population size. The internet market in Ghana has been hampered by the inadequate fixed-line infrastructure and the high cost of access. Much of the growth in internet usage has been fuelled by the proliferation of cybercafes and public tele-centres in the country, not so much by individual subscription to internet access services.

Under the positive developments afore mentioned, the number of internet users in Ghana is expected to exceed two million by 2010 and approach the eight million mark by 2015.

The report said it was expected that by 2010 broadband would almost entirely have replaced dial-up Internet access, and 3G mobile data services, in particular, would enable large numbers of mobile phone users to gain direct personal broadband access 'anytime, anywhere', instead of using public access points.

It, however, noted that Ghana's 40 per cent illiteracy rate could impact negatively on the use of internet, even though access would be abundantly available.

"Further growth will depend on the success of basic literacy and computer education programmes, as well as further expansion of the national fibre optics backbone network beyond the major cities," it said.

Telecom experts at a conference in Cape Town, South Africa, recently, also cited illiteracy, poverty and power fluctuation as possible limitations to the growth of internet use in Africa. Meanwhile the Government of Ghana this year awarded a contract worth 150 million dollars for the installation of infrastructure to facilitate nationwide access to broadband. All the telecom operators have introduced wireless internet dongles that provide internet access anywhere, anytime. Some of the operators, particularly MTN and Vodafone, have provided fixed-wireless phones in several communities and schools across the country to give more people access to modern telecom services, including convergence services like mobile money. MTN, the market leaders, is also rolling out its Education Flagship Project worth GHC929,580, under which one ICT centre each would be established in a relative deprived community in all 10 regions of the country. The Ghana Investment Fund for Electronic Communication (GIFEC) is also establishing ICT centres and alternative power sources in un-served and under-served areas to boost the use of ICT and internet when the government's broadband comes on stream. 1 Oct. 09

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