Telecoms & IT

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Telecoms & IT

€‹Mozambique still faces substantial challenges in developing an adequate ICT infrastructure to connect all of its population.

Mozambique’s economy has grown consistently in recent years and this is beginning to reflect in its ICT sector. The country was largely unaffected by the global economic crisis of 2008-09 and GDP growth was 7.1% in 2010; it has remained at that level through to 2013. Growth was projected to have increased to 8.3% for 2014. In 2013, fixed teledensity came in at 0.4%, whereas overall mobile penetration was assessed at 33.1% of the population. The number of Mozambicans using the internet was only around 5% (approximately 1 million people), according to the International Telecommunication Union. This was largely due to cost issues; while the country ranks as the world’s 15th poorest, the price of a fixed broadband connection comes in as the world’s fourth most expensive, and a basic mobile broadband subscription costs over 65% of the average monthly income. The number of individuals over the age of 16 who own a mobile phone was listed at 26%, which puts it in 12th place in Africa. Social and personal media was not highly developed either; the total number of Facebook users only amounted to 316,000 (or about 1.5% of the population) and only 64.36% of internet users have an email address. Recognizing the need to harness the internet to encourage growth, the Mozambican government recently became the third country to join Alliance for an Affordable Internet, signing a formal MoU with the Alliance in April 2014, which seeks to expand access for all in developing markets to help boost growth and ICT connectedness.

While a great deal of work is underway, the country still faces numerous challenges in developing an adequate ICT infrastructure to connect all of its population, which is widely spread out geographically. While Maputo remains well served, there is a significant divide between urban and rural users in all forms of telecommunications technology use; currently, about 65% of mobile subscribers live in Maputo. Though a large share of Mozambique’s population lives in Maputo, millions live in rural areas that are harder to reach via the current undersea broadband connection points that link up the country. Moreover, the almost 2 decades long civil war has damaged and stunted growth on much of the nation’s existing communications infrastructure.

Yet Mozambique’s telecommunications market was changing rapidly in 2014. While the fixed segment remains, in real terms, a monopoly of the Telecomunicaçíµes de Moçambique (TDM), the mobile sector has become more vibrant since the Movitel company entered the market in 2012. Two years into Movitel’s arrival, the company (a joint venture between the Vietnamese company Viettel and Mozambique’s own native SPI) has built 2,800 2G/3G base stations and added 25,000 km of fiber optic cables covering 100% of districts and extending service to nearly 80% of the Mozambican population. In rural areas, by the end of 2013, the company had increased its coverage area from 60% to 85% and doubled the number of covered people from 35% to 75%. Moreover, Movitel and other major providers are changing the ICT landscape. Thanks to its strong network infrastructure, Movitel now accounts for 70% of the country’s fiber-optic cable infrastructure and 50% of the mobile phone network infrastructure, bringing Mozambique into the top three nations in terms of fiber-optic cable infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa. The country now has a strong and modern ICT infrastructure, in addition to the latest DWDM (dense wavelength division multiplexing) technology and 20Gbps bandwidth. However, the price of broadband internet continues to be prohibitive for average consumers. Fixed-line ADSL broadband is only used by a small number of customers, usually large businesses. Prepaid mobile internet, for 1GB and 5GB bundles of data, is cheaper than both prepaid and postpaid ADSL packages of the same size. ResearchICTAfrica.net’s (RIA) 2013 data for Mozambique, generated through the 2012 RIA Mozambique Household and Individual ICT Access and Use Survey, indicates that in Mozambique, 68.7% of users rely on mobile phone handsets to access the internet, 56.8% rely on 3G dongle style modems, 10.6% on wireless broadband, and only 3.9% use ADSL connections. The number of households with a working telephone line is also extremely small. The same 2012 RIA ICT Survey found that only 0.39% of households have a working fixed line, while 42.5% of individuals own a mobile phone.

Vodacom Mozambique also announced that it invested $150 million in 2013-14 to upgrade its networks and introduce new services. The country’s number two operator had 4.5 million subscribers and a 32% share of Mozambique’s mobile market at the end of September 2014, according to the ICT reporting site TeleGeography. Vodacom is set to roll out even more expansions. Jerry Mobbs, President of Vodacom Moçambique, told TBY: “We have been gaining market share over the last year, primarily driven on the back of significant growth in our network. In 2013, we expanded our network by 70% with our largest ever investment. In 2014, we have so far increased our network by 50%. I think that will give us the second-largest network in the whole country.”

ENCOURAGING CONNECTEDNESS

In 2013 the government drafted a revision of its guiding 2004 Telecommunications Act, aimed at developing greater competition and facilitating access to networks and infrastructure in a bid to reduce investment costs. The government’s overall Policy Implementation Strategy aims to improve governance and public administration through electronic government initiatives, develop Mozambique as a competitive partner in the global information society, and eventually make the country a producer, not a mere consumer, of ICT. However, both public and private players recognize that the weak existing fixed-line infrastructure has largely held back the market for ICT services and the high cost of international bandwidth has long hampered internet use in the country. The extensive use of two international submarine fiber optic cables (SEACOM and EASSy) has reduced the cost of bandwidth and led to reductions in retail prices, yet the cost of internet access has not decreased as much as predicted. In 2014 Alcatel-Lucent was contracted to upgrade the EASSy submarine cable system, with the deployment of the latest 100 gigabit-per-second (Gbit/s) technology. Alcatel-Lucent’s 100G technology will enable the system to ultimately carry capacity in excess of 10Tbit/s, further complementing its ability to carry high volumes of data capacity on the EASSy system. Other operators are also planning national level improvements. Zainadin D. A.Dalsuco, the CEO of Telecomunicaçíµes de Moçambique (TDM), described TDM’s own program in this way: “In terms of infrastructure investment and development plans for the next five years, the objective is to implement the project of the 2nd Terrestrial Fiber Optic Route aimed at securing the transmission, increased capacity, and improved quality of services on the network backbone.” So significant work is being planned on all sides.

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