Catching up to other African nations, Zambia plans mobile infrastructure initiative

As an increasing number of people use mobile phones to access the Internet in Africa, Zambia is playing catch-up. To spur Internet and mobile phone connectivity throughout the country, the Zambian government has announced an initiative to build telecom infrastructure.

The Zambian government says it will spend $65 million to erect new telecom towers across the country to be used by the country’s three mobile operators in the Southern African country.

There’s little doubt than in many African countries, people depend on mobile phones for Internet access. The Mobile Africa 2015 study conducted by survey company GeoPoll and World Wide Worx, a technology analysis organization in South Africa, reports that Internet browsing via mobile phone is on the rise in the countries studied—South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest telecom market by subscription and investment, followed by South Africa and Kenya. Due to poor landline infrastructure, Africans use mobile phones for online activities that people in other regions normally perform on laptops and desktop.

The Mobile Africa report, released this week, finds that many Africans access social media, including Facebook and Twitter, using their mobile phones. Declining prices of data-enabled handsets along with faster Internet connection speed have fueled use of mobile phones.

Lower-specification “feature” phones that can access the Internet are now selling for less than $20 in some areas.

Nigeria has well over 140 million mobile phone subscribers and close to 82 million mobile Internet users, according to monthly subscriber data that has just been released by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC).  Kenya has close to 34 million mobile phone subscribers, according to a report released this week by Kenya’s Communications Authority, while Uganda has about 19 million subscribers.

Zambia, however, has just over 10 million mobile phone subscribers and about 6 million people using mobile phones to access the Internet. The government hopes that the infrastructure initiative announced this week will go a long way to fueling an increase in subscribers and connectivity.

“Once implemented, the project will reduce the problems of telephone and Internet connectivity in the country,” said Zambian President Edgar Lungu, in a statement.

China’s Huawei Technologies has won the bid to construct the towers. The towers will be constructed under the supervision of the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA), the country’s telecom sector regulator.

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