Internet penetration is low in the Solomon Islands

June 21st, 2017, by

While mobile penetration is considered to be quite high in the Solomon Islands; internet penetration remains very low. Some rural and remote areas still lack access to mobile networks and in areas where it is available –  the cost can be prohibitive. Many rural mobile base stations in the Solomon Islands also only support voice services; further inhibiting growth of mobile broadband services.

Satellite internet services have traditionally been too costly for citizens to access on a regular basis and ADSL is only available in limited locations. There are also geographic difficulties in deploying fibre-optic cables in the Solomon Islands. Remote islands are separated by large distances of open ocean, and almost all rural villages have no reliable power – if power is available at all. Around 85% of Solomon Islanders live in tiny functioning rural communities scattered across 100 populated islands.

The Solomon Islands is also vulnerable to the seasonal natural disasters including cyclones and earthquakes. Despite these significant challenges, the Solomon Islands government has acknowledged it is time to prioritise improving the telecoms sector and has outlined plans in its current National Development Strategy to do so.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Solomon Islands – Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband – Statistics and Analyses

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Burundi to apply the One Area Network conditions later in 2017

June 21st, 2017, by

Given its high population density and the low penetration rates across all telecom sectors, Burundi remains one of the most attractive telecom markets in Africa for investors. Nevertheless, investor reticence is still evident given the country’s low economic output and the fact that outside the main urban areas fixed-line infrastructure remains poor. To overcome these difficulties, the government, supported by the Word Bank, has backed a joint venture with a number of prominent telcos to build a national fibre backbone network, offering onward connectivity to submarine cable infrastructure landings in Kenya and Tanzania. The first sections of this network were switched on in early 2014, and additional provinces are being connected into 2017.

Since 2012 Burundi has had improved access to international cables, thus ending its dependence on expensive satellite connections. International bandwidth tripled in 2015, resulting in lower retail prices for consumers. There have also been efforts to encourage the country’s ISPs to join the national IXP in a bid to cannel internet traffic locally and thus reduce the cost of providing services to end-users.

Two of the four mobile operators have launched 3G and LTE mobile services to capitalise on the growing demand for internet access. The number of mobile subscribers grew rapidly for several years, though this slowed in 2016. Mobile penetration, at 50% by early 2017, remains low for by regional standards, suggesting considerable room for further growth. A new player, Viettel Group, which received a licence to provide mobile services in early 2014, launched 2G and 3G services in June 2015 and LTE services in February 2016. It signed up customers very quickly, and claimed to have more than 1.79 million by March 2017, making it a leading player in the country. The operator has built up an extensive fibre-backhaul network which it aims to use to provide fixed-line services. These developments make Burundi one of the most attractive growth markets in Africa, despite the limited size of the population.

The long-established plans to privatise the national telco Onatel (which also operates one of the mobile networks), have been delayed several times, but the government since 2013 has made efforts to kick-start the process.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Burundi – Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband – Statistics and Analyses

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Madagascar sees more competition in the LTE sector

June 20th, 2017, by

Madagascar’s economy has shown steady growth in recent years, benefiting from a revived tourist sector. The Plans to exploit and export crude oil, gas and other natural resources may also deliver a boost to the economy, despite the falling price of these commodities on international markets.

This period of strengthening economic output is helping to increase consumer spend on telecom services. These services are becoming cheaper as a result of intensifying competition between the main operators, including Orange Madagascar, Bharti Airtel (formerly Zain) and the incumbent telco Telma. A fourth mobile operator, Blueline, now operates its own network having been an MVNO since 2010.

Positive developments in the internet and broadband sector are also materialising following the arrival of the first international submarine fibre optic cables, LION and EASSy on the island in 2009 and 2010. This ended the country’s dependency on satellites for international connections, bringing down the cost of international bandwidth and making internet access more affordable to a wider part of the population. The IOX cable is expected to be ready for service in early 2019, which will provide additional capacity to support the fast growing mobile data market.

A national fibre backbone is being implemented connecting the major cities, and Telma expects to invest an additional $250 million to expand the backbone network from 5,000km to 11,000km by 2019. Wireless broadband access networks are being rolled out, enabling converged voice, data and entertainment services. The launch of 3G and LTE mobile broadband services has enabled the mobile operators to reverse their rapidly declining average revenue per user (ARPU).

The fixed-line sector has been undergoing a revolution following the privatisation of Telma. ADSL2+ broadband services have been introduced and the decline in fixed-line revenue has been successfully reversed. Despite these positive developments, the national telco is considering various divestiture options.

Penetration rates in all market sectors are still below African averages, and so there remains excellent growth potential.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Madagascar – Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband and Digital Media – Statistics and Analyses

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Demand for data services grows steadily in Fiji

June 20th, 2017, by

Fiji hosts a relatively sophisticated communications infrastructure with the highest mobile and Internet penetration in the Pacific islands. It also has one of the strongest economies in the region with mining an important component of Fiji’s economy. Fiji’s telecoms market has become increasingly more competitive as a result of deregulation and an increasing penetration of mobile services.

Fiji’s fixed Internet connectivity is improving due to both its existing international link to Australia and the US via the Southern Cross Cable Network as well as the regional submarine linking Fiji to Samoa, which is under development.

Fiji is in a cyclone prone area and in 2016 it was hit by both Cyclone Winston as well as Cyclone Zena. These natural disasters destroyed infrastructure including electricity and telecoms equipment. Going forward, there have been calls for a more strategic approach to planning and managing Fiji’s infrastructure.

Mobile communications availability covers the majority of the Fiji population with more than 100% SIM penetration occurring. Around 95% of consumers use the prepaid option. Pricing reductions in data and hardware together with an increase in bandwidth availability have seen mobile broadband penetration increase dramatically over the last couple of years.

Demand for data has also become so strong that Vodafone Fiji, a leading mobile services provider in Fiji, has begun deploying WiFi hotspots which can be used to offload 3G and 4G traffic. In late 2016 Digicel Fiji launched the first triple-play offering in Fiji, comprising Internet, Pay TV and Voice services.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Fiji – Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband – Statistics and Analyses

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Fixed broadband will see strong growth in some developing Asian markets

June 19th, 2017, by

The telecom market across Asia has an estimated total of 4.15 billion mobile subscribers by 2017. This sector of the overall market continues to experience moderate growth; however, in the more developed markets, growth is shifting away from a focus on subscriber numbers towards the expansion of new generation platforms and increased data usage driven by value-added services and increased ARPUs.

Looking over the next five years, countries with high mobile penetration rates such as Macau, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Maldives and Kazakhstan are expected to see the slowest growth over the next five years to 2021 due to the relatively high state of maturity in their markets.

There are in fact few countries left in Asia with significantly underdeveloped mobile markets and low mobile penetration rates. Further to this, some Asian countries with relatively underdeveloped telecoms markets, have mobile penetration rates which are often quite high. Compared to more advanced nations such as Japan, Sri Lanka for example has a mobile penetration rate of 127% but a fixed broadband penetration of only 4%. Many of these countries have seen their telecoms markets develop by leapfrogging past fixed broadband, directly to mobile networks which are relatively less expensive to roll out. Countries in this category with very low fixed broadband penetration such Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Cambodia will see relatively high growth rates of fixed broadband, however because fixed broadband subscriber growth is coming from such a small base, the overall increase in penetration rates with be only modest. In these markets, mobile networks are now relatively established and will be the main driver of growth over the next five years.

Only a handful of Asian countries have mobile penetration rates under 90%, these include: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Laos, Myanmar, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. These countries are generally expected to see moderate mobile subscriber growth over the next five years, as they strive to catch up with the rest of Asia.

The expansion of broadband was for a long time a phenomenon limited to the developed economies, with narrowband dial-up access being the norm in the majority of the poorer developing countries of the region. However this has been gradually changing. In those economies, there is now increasing access to broadband, both DSL and cable modem platforms have both proved popular, with DSL establishing a clear advantage. More recently, we have seen the arrival of FttX as an alternative platform for broadband access in Asia. There also continues to be considerable activity in the broadband markets across Asia including amongst the many number of smaller countries such as Azerbaijan, Maldives and Macau.

Fixed broadband penetration is expected to only increase modestly in these markets over the next few years to 2021, while the growth will come from the less developed markets such as India. However penetration rates are never expected to reach the high levels seen in the mobile markets as these developing nations have typically bypassed fixed line access and moved directly to mobile access.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Asia – Telecom Forecasts

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