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Telecoms overview for Chad, Ethiopia, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Niger, DR Congo (as of 2012)

July 24, 2013  »  City ProfilesNo Comment

Projects come and go and many lose their web presence. Such is not that case with the infoasaid project which courteously left its site behind (and even adapted parts to read ‘who we were’ and ‘what we did’) upon termination.

In the immediate aftermath of an emergency, aid agencies can easily assess the states of a nation’s information streams using a comprehensive media landscape guide. Such information can expedite the communications response in a variety of emergency contexts. Although created in 2011 and 2012, the infoasaid media landscape guides still serve this  great purpose and we are glad to find them online.

The project may have ended, but the resources developed during the project can fortunately still be accessed. In particular, the project created a robust set of media guides for a variety of under-represented African nations (including Chad, Guinea, Niger, and South Sudan). The HTML and PDF guides list radio and television stations and give an overview of print media. They also describe the telecommunciations environment in each nation. Within the telecoms section we find mobile phone ownership, mobile network coverage, the main telecoms operators, and information about value-added services like mobile money.

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Recaps of telecommunications in under-represented parts of Africa as lifted from the infoasaid guides:

Chad:

Internet access is expensive and only an educated and relatively affluent minority in the main towns can afford it. In March 2012 N’Djamena was connected to the Central African Backbone, a World-Bank-financed fibre optic cable designed to improve internet access in Chad and the Central African Republic. The Chad spur of the cable was laid alongside the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline. This fibre optic cable will eventually provide faster and cheaper broadband access for all internet users in Chad, but negotiations with the government on opening up this new telecoms channel for public use were proceeding slowly in 2012. By August, it had not yet been made available to local internet service providers.

Mobile phones offer strong potential as a new platform for mass communication in Chad. One in three Chadians owned a mobile phone by the end of 2011. The number of subscriber lines increased by a third in 2011, according to GSMA. Further rapid growth in mobile phone ownership is likely. However, network coverage remains patchy, especially in rural areas.

Airtel and Tigo both offer mobile internet services, but access speeds are slow and their 3G network coverage is limited. Much of Chad’s mobile network only had 2G capability in mid-2012 and did not support internet traffic. In N’Djamena, the internet service provider, Tawali, offers a fixed wireless access telephone and internet service to subscribers in N’Djamena. This service uses a radio connection instead of copper wires to provide the final local connection to the subscriber. Tawali is a subsidiary of the state telecoms operator Sotel. It offers faster internet access speeds than the mobile internet services of Airtel and Tigo. However, the internet offers of all three operators remain expensive. Unlimited access to the internet, via a USB modem stick connected to a computer, costs about 50,000 CFA (US$100) per month.

Ethiopia:

Internet usage in Ethiopia is very low and restricted to the main towns. However, the popularity of the internet and social networking is growing fast.

Ethio Telecom is the sole provider of internet access in Ethiopia. Home or mobile internet access is beyond the means of most Ethiopians. Most surfers go online at their place of work or at internet cafes. In Addis Ababa, some of the educated elite take advantage mobile internet access. In September 2011, Ethio Telecom charged about 1,100 birr (US$65) per month for a2 mbps ADSL line with a 6 gigabyte data-transfer limit. All the same, Ethio Telecom is planning to expand its ADSL network and mobile-data network. The company has already reduced its internet tariffs and the cost of internet access may fall further as subscriber numbers increase.

Many of the most popular internet services, such as Google searches, internet-based email, Facebook and Twitter, can be easily accessed on rudimentary smart phones that access the mobile-data network. Some affluent Ethiopians use USB plug in modems to access the Internet via their laptop computers. Access to websites that are sympathetic to the political opposition, or deemed hostile to the government, may be blocked from inside Ethiopia.

Guinea:

Internet use has grown much more slowly than in most other West African countries. In Guinea, the internet remains an information tool of the educated and relatively affluent elite. However, there were plans to connect Guinea to a submarine fibre optic cable running from the West African Coast to France in 2011 (the Africa Coast to Europe or ACE cable). This should make fast broadband services more readily available in Guinea and cut the cost of internet access.

In 2011, mobile internet access cost upwards of $70 to $80 per month – far more than most Guineans can afford. Most Guinean internet users go online at an internet café. Although relatively few Guineans use the internet, it is becoming increasingly popular amongst young people.

Many families use email and instant messaging to keep in touch with friends and relatives living abroad in Europe and North America. Social networking site such as Facebook are particularly popular. There are five mobile networks in Guinea. The largest is MTN.

Cote d’Ivoire:

Cote d’Ivoire has become West Africa’s third largest Internet market after Nigeria and Ghana, with services superior to those in many other African countries, including ADSL with speeds of up to 8Mb/s. There are cyber-cafes in all the main towns and these offer the most popular way of accessing the internet. One hour online costs 200 CFA francs (45-65 US cents).

There are three main types of internet cafe user:

  • People who go online to use email or social networking sites to contact friends and family.
  • Fortune seekers known as brouteurs (grazers) who search the net for wealthy and gullible Europeans and North Americans who can be conned into parting with their money or offering marriage – and thereby the guarantee of a visa to allow them to emigrate. These are typically well educated youths aged 17 to 30.
  • Children and teenagers who are mostly interested in playing computer games.

All the mobile phone companies offer internet access – either through the mobile handset or a modem stick attached to a computer. Unlimited access to the internet from a computer with a leased modem stick costs upwards of CFA 15,000 (US$33) per month.

Mozambique:

Mozambique boasts of having mobile network coverage in all 128 administrative districts of the country, but in most cases this is restricted to a 5 km radius of the district headquarters town.

The internet is still the exclusive preserve of the educated and relatively wealthy urban elite. However, Mozambique is now connected to the rest of the world by three submarine fibre-optic cables and the availability of the internet via mobile connections is increasing.

Internet is still very expensive in comparison to the low level of personal incomes and connectivity erratic. Mobile internet access costs upwards of US$18 per month. However the cost of internet access should fall and connection speeds should improve following the recent arrival of three undersea cables linking East Africa to Europe. The Seacom cable, which connects Southern Africa with Europe and Southern Asia was launched in 2009, but has suffered frequent breakdowns. The East African Marine System (TEAMS), which links the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Kenya, was also completed in 2009. This cable should speed up internet connectivity right along the east coast of Africa, but it suffered a major breakage in March 2012 and was still out of action three months later. The EASSY (East African Submarine System) was connected to Mozambique in 2010.

Niger:

The internet network in Niger is improving, but from a very low base. In Niger, internet usage is restricted to educated and relatively affluent people in the main cities. It is virtually unheard of in rural communities. Most people access the internet at work or from internet cafes. The number of home subscriptions is very low. A home internet link costs upwards of $25,000 CFA francs (US$50) per month. Sahelcom provides the fastest and most reliable internet connections, particularly in Niamey. The state-owned company has a fibre optic cable to Benin which is linked to a submarine fibre optic cable that runs along the coast of West Africa. It redistributes the internet to other service providers in Niger, including the other three mobile phone companies, by V-Sat. Internet access is slower and less reliable outside the capital. Mobile connections to the internet are available, but few people can afford them. Most mobile towers have their own generator.

DR Congo:

The DRC’s heavy reliance on satellite communications makes makes internet connections slow and expensive. However, in late 2012, DRC was starting to connect for the first time to international fibre-optic networks. Their arrival should dramatically improve internet access speeds in many parts of the country and reduce the cost of going online in the near future.Liquid Telecom, which operates the largest fibre optic cable network in Southern Africa, has thrust a spur into southern DRC from Zambia via Lubumbashi. This line of cable reached Kisangani in November 2012. The connection to WACS will come ashore at Muanda on the Atlantic coast. The overland fibre optic cable connection from there to Kinshasa should be completed during the first half of 2013. A local fibre optic cable network already exists within the capital and several thousand subscribers are connected to it.

The government finally issued all four mobile network operators with 3G licences in July 2012. In late 2012, all the Internet Service Providers in DRC relied on satellite connections to the world wide web.

Few ISPs were able to offer internet services outside the country’s main cities and mining sites. Even there, the cost of an internet connection remained high at an average of US$100 per month for a slow 64KB per second line. Some Congolese who work for business es and international organizations are lucky enough to have access to the internet at work. But the vast majority of Congolese web surfers go online at internet cafes. Very few people own computers or have an internet connection at home.

Note: Guides exist for Somalia and South Sudan but have little telecoms information. Guides for Kenya and Zimbabwe are even more outdated than the ones listed above (information is from 2011 instead of 2012). We have omitted most internet stats since they come from 2011 ITU data which is now obsolete.