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[NAIROBI] Mobile phone data traffic has increased by 100 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past year, according to a new report.

The Ericsson Mobility Report released this month (3 June) states that mobile phone users in the region accessed 37,500 terabytes of data per month in 2013, increasing to 76,000 terabytes by the first quarter of 2014. The report projects that in 2015, mobile phone data use would double.

The report attributes the rise to the rapid increase in smartphones and tablets that cost less than US$100 and the popularity of social media.

“[Availability of] affordable smartphones in Sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile market will contribute to rise in 3G and 4G technologies, leading to an increase in subscriptions.”
Emmanuel Kweyu, iLabAfrica at Strathmore University, Kenya

The findings resulted from combining consumer data from Sweden-headquartered Ericsson — a global telecommunication company — and population trends in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Fredrik Jejdling, Ericsson’s Sub-Saharan Africa regional head, says economic benefits due to increased use of mobile devices are being felt within different industries in the region. “Financial institutions have tapped into mobile data fully by offering regulated services for easier access to online banking,” he notes.

Mobile banking has moved beyond urban centres to rural settings, which are showing significant uptake and use, says the report.

In Nigeria, agricultural institutions have incorporated mobile data by providing electr

onic vouchers enabling farmers to receive subsidised seeds and fertilisers, Jejdling says.

“Employment opportunities have also been developed through content developers who generate different applications or software to be able to provide quicker services and product accessibility,” he adds.

The traffic measurements show a shift from use of 2G networks to 3G and 4G networks at an increasing pace over the next five years. The report shows that the top five countries with increased number of mobile subscriptions as of the first quarter of 2014 are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

The report adds that due to rise in use of sophisticated social networking platforms, which cause traffic though disseminating and exchanging ideas and photos, bottlenecks could be encountered, including increased demand for seamless user experience. To check this scenario, mobile data service providers and other information and communication technology stakeholders will have to provide adequate connectivity.

Emmanuel Kweyu, the operations director for iLabAfrica at Strathmore University, Kenya, tells SciDev.Net: “[Availability of] affordable smartphones in Sub-Saharan Africa’s mobile market will contribute to rise in 3G and 4G technologies, leading to an increase in subscriptions.”

He adds that although markets in Africa are showing strong growth, poor network coverage is a cause for concern, especially in rural and poor areas where operators’ ability to adequately serve consumers lags behind the service for urban centres.

Link to the report.

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.

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