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3G available in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville)

October 26, 2011  »  VideoNo Comment

The title of this video from ABN is misleading – 3G service has been launched for the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) and not for the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Last month, we mentioned that Bharti Airtel had plans to roll-out 3G services in seven African nations. Well, that day has come for Congo-Brazzaville. On paper, October 25, 2011 marks a historic day in the telecommunication chronicles of Central Africa.

Let it sink in. 3G mobile service (HSPA+, 21Mbps) is available in Brazzaville. Press releases and media stories tout the promise of enhanced multimedia functionality for subscribers in the region. Youth will supposedly have faster access to mobile social media. Businesses will be able to perform video calls on-the-go. Indeed, 3G is theoretically supposed to close the “digital divide,” but will it instead worsen the gap with the wealthy using the service and the poor still relying on 2G, cafes, or no access at all?

ABNDigital’s interview with Tiemoko Coulibaly, CEO Airtel Africa, Francophone leaves many answers on the table:

  • When asked why it took so long to get 3G to central Africa, he replied that governments take time to issues licenses.
  • Infrastructure? Something along the lines of 2G systems serving as a basis.
  • Demand? …is important. Youth are especially interested and “the demand is there.”
  • Local ecosystem? IBM is taking care of IT needs and will help build local ecosystem.

Either way, the Republic of Congo’s Internet situation has come a long way since 2009 when one hour of unreliable Internet access could cost upwards of CDF 1,000 (nearly 2 USD). Progress takes time. 3G access from Airtel will encourage competitors to also offer 3G (or 4G, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves) – a move that will eventually lower prices and increase the quality of service. For now, though, we should applaud the government of Congo-Brazzaville for awarding a 3G license and hope they give the technology the support it needs to benefit the people.