3G to launch soon in Djibouti
Djibouti Telecom and Ericsson announced a contract for 3G networks back in September 2011. Mobile broadband service is finally set to launch in mid-January 2013.
Djibouti has quickly established itself as a hub that connects East Africa with major telecommunications hubs in Europe, the USA, Asia and the Middle East” – Carlo Alloni, President of Ericsson North East Africa
To date, Djibouti Telecoms has focused as much effort, if not more, on international telecommunications services than domestic access. The nation’s geographic location – a crossroads between Europe, the Middle East, and Africa – certainly allows for investment in a variety of submarine cables.
Given a telecoms monopoloy, the top-down approach Djibouti has taken in achieving domestic Internet access has its ups and downs:
- The general manager of Djibouti Telecom acknowledges that the company’s greatest revenue lies in utilizing international revenue streams. The GM is quoted as saying “Djibouti Telecom is not just about bringing the internet to Africa; it is also about putting Djibouti on the map.” The fear here is that DT will ignore domestic mobile access in lieu of making money. Or that the country will utilize its position as gateway to Europe to attract investment to support domestic Internet services – something that will take years to achieve.
- Djibouti owns capacity on at least six submarine cables – a staggering number considering Internet penetration rates within Djibouti are in the single digits. DT is seemingly focused on securing international bandwidth before deploying terrestrial fibre or mobile Internet services. In 2011, Djibouti Telecom launched a top-tier IP point of presence (POP) that will support the increasing demand (current and future) for international content. Moreover, Djibouti has a landing station on the EASSy submarine cable. Now that sufficient international bandwidth is in place, 3G can live up to its potential. Still, terrestrial fibre connections are lacking in the country.
Agence Ecofin reports that 3G service launched on December 27, 2012, but Twitter reports suggest 3G service will actually begin on January 15, 2013. The Djibouti Telecom website lists two offers for 512 kbps 3G via USB stick:
- 3G: 15,000 DJF (80 USD) initial + 1,500 DJF (8 USD) for 8 hours [valid 15 days] or 3,000 DJF (16 USD) for 14 hours [valid 30 days]
- 3G Pro: 122,000 DJF (682 USD) 6 months or 222,000 DJF (1,229 USD) for 1 year – unlimited access
Mobile broadband services are a major step forward for Djibouti, yet even with expensive 3G, Djibouti Telecom will retain a monopoly of the telecommunications market. Competition and foreign investment is needed to unleash the markets full potential. In addition, online press freedom remains a challenge.
Note: Of African Arab nations, only Algeria, Djibouti, and Comoros had not launched 3G by 2012. Algeria is expected to launch 3G services by the end of March 2013.