Kai-Krauses-remarkable-true size of africa430The center of the Internet has moved South. Carter Horney of Forward Concepts has just published a Global 4G analysis with a detailed geographical breakdown. His projection for 2018 is 315M smartphone Internet users in India and 317M Africans connected. The U.S. population is 315M, some of them under 4 years old and not connecting to the net. His estimate is close to the 300M in 2017 I projected with Cisco's help http://bit.ly/Africa300M last year. 

These estimates are very rough but the trend is clear. Both India and Africa have over a billion people. $50 smartphones are affordable to hundreds of millions more than are connected today. Carlos Slim told me two years ago that $50 smartphones will connect two billion more people. He's proving right. 

In China, the U.S. or most countries in Europe, you can ask 3 or 4 big telcos and get a reasonable approximation. That's impossible in India or Africa. Many phones have two SIMs as people switch between carriers for cheaper rates. The carriers to impress investors use optimistic estimates, carrying on the books "subscribers" who had left months before for a competitor. There are 54 countries in Africa, some with good statistics and some without. Last year, I saw estimates from reputable sources of the total phones in Africa as low as 300-400M and as high as 700M. What is clear is that growth is remarkable, one of the great communications stories of our day.  

Forward Concepts under Will Strauss has earned my respect. I'm comfortable using their estimates, especially because they are compatible with other sources including Cisco. Horney writes: 

"The smartphone growth in Africa has accelerated from  1.2 mn in 2008 to 99.4 mn in 2014, initially driven by the  wealthier  post-paid South Africa population.The growth forward is in emerging markets such as Nigeria and Kenya. 

In India the cumulative installed base of Smartphones (2G, 3G and 6 mn 4G), without retirements,  grew from 6.5M in 2008 to 145M in 2014 with 55M 3G data subscribers. In 2014  80.1 million smartphones were shipped with  about one-half signing up for a data service.  We estimate there will be 346 million smartphone owners in 2016 with 178 million using the internet services. We estimate there will be  315 million 3G subscribers by 2018 with an installed base of smartphone owners at 443 million." 

Without many copper lines, Africa needs as much capacity as possible on wireless. Rwanda has more advanced spectrum policy than the U.S. or Europe. Many of the African regulators have advanced technical degrees, unlike the Americans.

Exciting events. 


After I wrote that, I discovered an Ovum estimate that is much higher. Ovum is reputable but I'm more comfortable with the lower estimate above. Primary data is often lacking. Here's what Ovum writes


Africa will have one billion mobile broadband subscriptions by 2020


South Africa leads sub-Saharan Africa’s digital media opportunity rankings

 The number of mobile broadband connections in Africa will reach one billion in 2020, up from 147 million at the end of 2014, according to new forecasts* by Ovum (see Figure). The rapid growth of mobile broadband in Africa over the next few years will be driven by factors such as the ongoing rollout of 3G W-CDMA and 4G LTE networks on the continent and the increasing affordability of smartphones and other data devices.

As a result, mobile broadband will account for an increasingly substantial share of the overall mobile market in Africa. Mobile broadband accounted for just 17% of the 884 million total mobile subscriptions in Africa at end-2014, but mobile broadband is forecasted to account for 76% of the total of 1.32 billion mobile subscriptions in Africa at end-2020. The number of total mobile subscriptions in Africa is expected to cross the one billion mark during 2016.

Africa’s fixed-broadband market is also set to grow strongly, albeit from a low base, as operators on the continent step up their deployments of wireless and fiber networks for home and business broadband. The number of FTTH/B subscriptions in Africa will rise from about 166,000 at end-2014 to 1.2 million at end-2020, forecasts Ovum.

“Although the pace of growth in overall connection numbers in Africa has slowed and the regional industry is facing some headwinds from rising competition and weaker economic conditions, there are substantial growth opportunities on the continent in data connectivity as well as in digital services that are based on those data connections,” said Matthew Reed, Practice Leader for Middle East & Africa at Ovum.

As African operators look to develop digital services, the Digital Media Opportunity Index: Sub-Saharan Africa, a new research tool published by Ovum, reveals that South Africa has the most favourable market among the 20 countries surveyed for digital media content such as apps, digital music, digital publishing, OTT video, and video gaming.

South Africa ranks highest on the Index with a score of 4.35 out of 5. South Africa is followed in the digital media opportunity rankings by Angola, Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana.

“The South African market is among the most advanced on the continent, so it is to be expected that it leads in potential for digital media services. Nevertheless, the Index shows that there are digital media opportunities across the continent,” commented Reed.