Releasing much-needed spectrum for mobile networks could lead to the creation of 1.5 million jobs in South Africa, according to findings by the GSM Association.
The GSMA reported on Tuesday (13 November 2012) that sub-Saharan Africa is the fastest-growing mobile market in the world, having grown at an average annual growth rate of 44% since 2000.
“Mobile connections have leapt to 475 million, compared to just 12.3 million fixed line connections, representing the highest proportion of mobile versus fixed line connections in the world,” the GSMA said.
The spectrum crunch
Despite massive investments over $16.5 billion in sub-Saharan mobile capacity and coverage over the past five years, the region still faces a mobile spectrum crunch, the GSMA said.
According to the association, sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest amount of spectrum allocated to mobile services, with as little as 80MHz allocated in some countries.
This is compared to developed markets, where allocation for mobile networks exceeds 500MHz.
“With mobile Internet traffic forecast to grow 25-fold over the next four years, there will be a considerable increase in network congestion unless governments across the region take urgent steps to release new spectrum,” the GSMA said.
This would include capacity in the “Digital Dividend” (700-800 MHz) band and the 2.6 GHz band, as well as recycling existing licence agreements to allow the use of high-speed UMTS and LTE networks in the 900 and 1800MHz bands.
By releasing spectrum, and “refarming” spectrum currently avaiable, an additional 14.9 million jobs could be created between 2015 and 2020 in the region.
Of these jobs, the GSMA projects that 1.5 million could be created in South Africa.
“Mobile industry growth could also generate a GDP increase of $40 billion, representing 0.54% of total GDP, in the region by 2016,” the GSMA said.
“Mobile has already revolutionised African society and yet demand still continues to grow by almost 50% a year,” said Tom Phillips, chief government and regulatory affairs officer at the GSMA.
“To create an environment that supports and encourages this immense growth, it is imperative that governments work in partnership with mobile operators to enable the industry to thrive throughout the region, ultimately providing affordable options to connect its citizens.”