ICT Policy



City Profiles

Thoughts on the arrival of streaming video

May 18, 2011  »  BroadbandOne Comment

Will streaming video become as popular in Africa as it is in North America?

Sandvine’s Global Internet Phenomena Report: Spring 2011, reveals that over both a 24-hour and peak periods, more North American fixed-access bandwidth is used to stream Netflix video than is devoted to any other form of data usage. In fact, over a typical day, 22.2% of bandwidth is utilized for Netflix – slightly ahead of the 21.6% of bandwidth devoted to file-sharing’s BitTorrent. In Europe and Latin America – where Netflix has little presence – file-sharing, HTTP, and YouTube commanded the highest share of fixed-line bandwidth usage.

The key here is fixed-line. The report does not look at mobile data habits. And, unlike Sandvine’s annual report, the Spring 2011 edition does not contain African trends. However, the 2009 report found that Africans consume a large number of YouTube videos on a per-subscriber basis. Based on this fact alone, it would appear that the interest for streaming video is already present.

Still, widespread implementation of streaming video will require the proper combination infrastructure, Internet pricing, disposable income, and a positive business environment. Certain urban areas of Africa are perhaps ready for such a feat, but the potential subscriber base remains too small for a streaming video service to be wildly successful. Online DVD rental companies certainly exist (just look at South Africa’s PushPlay), but they do not yet offer online streaming. One question is whether Africans will demand streaming movies and streaming television programs or will streaming video more revolve around social updates, news, and sports?

Factors aiding promise of widespread African streaming video:

  • More and more of Africa is becoming “middle-class” – the African Development Bank finds that 191 million Africans are able to spend $2-$4 per day per person
  • Bandwidth costs and packages are slowly decreasing as telecoms competition increases and undersea cables arrive
  • African streaming video doesn’t have to compete the massive cable companies that exist in America

Factors hindering promise of widespread African streaming video:

  • As of 2011, the vast majority of Netflix streaming occurs over private fixed-line connections: something that Africa generally lacks
  • Internet costs are not yet in the $1-$2 per day range
  • Mobile Internet is anticipated to become widespread, but 3G and 4G/LTE capabilities are limited
  • Lack of licensing and potential issues securing licensing
  • Large rural population with slow Internet speeds and no mobile broadband
  • Very interesting article. I think streaming in Africa will only take off when the internet connection gets more capacity over there.  Via my work as a S3 Amazon consultant, I get quite a few complaints from Africa about sluggish performance of RTMP streaming on S3 Amazon (especially North Africa it is very bad) while it works almost perfectly in Europe and the US.
    I know S3 amazon has no servers in Africa yet, which may account for it partly but the situation is too bad to just write it off on server distance.