Africa’s total international Internet bandwidth reached 520 Gbps in December 2010, a 78% increase compared to 2009. This was split between North Africa, which increased by 56% to reach 312 Gbps, and Sub-Saharan Africa which increased by 125% to reach 208 Gbps.
This bandwidth growth is clearly the result of the arrival of multiple, competing submarine cables last year. This has seen dramatic increases in countries connected to submarine cables for the first time: Comores Telecom for example, which was connected to EASSy in July last year, increased its Internet bandwidth from 12 Mbps in 2008 to 180 Mbps by December 2010. Meanwhile, Mauritius Telecom which was first connected to SAFE since 2002 and has also invested in the EASSy, LION, EIG, and WACS cables, initially activated four STM-1 circuits (622 Mbps) on EASSy and had increased its Internet bandwidth from 3 Gbps to 4.8 Gbps by December 2010.
Growth has also been driven by the completion of cross-border backhaul routes from landlocked countries. The volume of cross-border traffic backhauled to submarine cables doubled again for the second year running, reaching almost 20 Gbps in December 2010. There has also been significant progress in the expansion of national fibre backbones delivering greater bandwidth to cities and towns inland from the coast. In the first quarter of 2011, a total of 45,338.7-kms of network was added or edited in the Africa Telecom Transmission Map, bringing the total inventory of terrestrial transmission network to 645,938.2-km. By comparison, in July 2010 this stood at 585,471-km and in July 2009 at 465,659-km (restated).
|As this map of Facebook users from December 2010 shows, there is a strong correlation between social networking users, broadband uptake and the presence of high capacity fibre networks. Created by Paul Butler at Facebook, this map was made by taking a sample of 10 million pairs of friends out of 500 million users, then mapping their locations and traffic flows. According to Socialbakers, which publish worldwide Facebook user statistics, Africa reached some 28.59 million users by the end of April 2011. Africa reached the milestone of 25 million users in February 2011, a net increase of 5.4 million compared to three months previously (19.6 million), and 8.3 million six months previously (16.7 million).|
Whilst the map shows bright spots in those cities with submarine cable landing points (Dakar, Accra, Lagos, Cape Town and so on), there are also bright spots in the capital cities of landlocked countries such as Harare (Zimbabwe), Kampala (Uganda), Kigali (Rwanda), Lilongwe (Malawi) and Lusaka (Zambia), which were connected by terrestrial fibre to submarine cables only recently. What is particularly striking about this map are the bright spots in towns and cities outside of capital cities, and the spread of broadband usage along the route of fibre networks. In Ghana for example the fibre ring between Accra (the capital), Takoradi and Kumasi is clearly visible, as well as the fibre routes to Sunyani, Tamale and Paga in the north which were completed by the National Communications Backbone Co Ltd (NCBC) last year.
Africa Telecom Transmission Map Updates Q1, 2011
A total of 372 changes were made to terrestrial transmission networks on the map during the quarter, with fibre backbones extended in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This included 17,232.3-km of operational fibre, 14,417.5-km of fibre under construction, 6,731.6-km of fibre which was planned, and 4,417.3-km of fibre which was proposed. A further 2,540-km of microwave network was either added or edited.
As an example of the speed with which terrestrial fibre routes are being built, landlocked Zambia currently has 3,671-km of fibre under construction (Q1, 2011) and will have four separate international fibre routes to submarine cables by the end of this year. The first is the existing fibre link through Namibia, and the second is through Botswana. In April, Liquid Telecom and Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) announced that they had created a joint venture called CEC Liquid Telecommunications Ltd which will provide international wholesale services through Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, ZESCO has started work on the second phase of its national fibre backbone, including a link to Tanzania, which it plans to complete the end of the year.
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