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The Cost of Internet in Africa Remains Stubbornly High

According to the UN, internet access is considered affordable when the cost of a gig is less than 2% of gross monthly income. However, on the African continent, data prices average 5.7% of gross monthly income (compared to 2.7% in South America and 1.6% in Asia-Pacific).  Only 29% of Africans have access to the internet compared to 45% of people in Asia, according to the Dec 2020 report published by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI). The report says that ‘only 14 of the 48 African countries included in the ranking have affordable internet access’.

SA costs for data remain high, despite the Competition Commission’s ruling that the mobile operator’s reduce their costs, and as SA’s unemployment increases, the country slides down the scale towards even less affordable data . In other countries, for example, the CAR, a gigabyte represents 24.4% of monthly income, according to A4AI. In the DRC, it represents 20.6% of income while in Chad and Togo it takes up 15%. In contrast however, data prices are equivalent to only 0.5% of monthly income in Mauritius, 0.8% in Algeria, 1.3% in Gabon and 1.4% in Ghana. Despite the installation of submarine cables to connect the continent, the price of a gig of mobile internet data remains very high on average. In Equatorial Guinea, for example, it costs $35 to get a gig of mobile data – the most expensive rate in the world – according to figures from the A4AI. Yet the country is connected to 3 undersea fibre-optic cables.

Meanwhile, Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to have the lowest adoption of the 5G mobile phone technology globally over the next 5 years, according to the report by Ericsson. This is mostly as a result of the high cost of deploying 5G technology and the higher cost of 5G phones. Currently, less than 1% of mobile phone connections in the region are on 5G. This is not expected to grow this year but Ericsson estimates that it will reach 7% in 2026. 5G technology is the fifth generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks. It comes with speeds of up to 100 times faster than 4G, shorter delays in the time it takes your phone to send and receive signals (latency) and support for up to 1 million connected devices per square kilometer, compared to up to 100,000 for 4G.

Alastair Tempest

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