Welcome to the 7th annual review of telecommunications infrastructure development in Africa. Thanks to COVID-19, 2020 has been a year that no one on the planet will forget. It is also a year in which we came face-to-face with the critical role that telecommunications plays in enabling our economies to function, our students to learn, and many other aspects of life to go on while maintaining standards for staying safe and healthy. Given constraints of the pandemic, one might have expected fewer developments in the African telecom sector but if news is anything to go by the year has been as busy as those before. The following is my analysis of 2020 as well as links to over 275 articles covering a range of African telecom infrastructure development issues.

Undersea Cables

Undersea cable initiatives got bigger and smaller in 2020. Bigger with the ongoing development of the two massive cables, Equiano and 2Africa spearheaded by Google and Facebook respectively. Each cable represents as much or more capacity than has been deployed in all the existing African undersea cables to date. It is difficult to predict how this is going to re-shape the undersea cable market but there seems little doubt that we are entering a new phase of undersea cable ownership and that is bound to have tectonic impacts on African markets.

CableDatePublicationArticle
FLY-Lion32020/01/16SubTelForumFLY-Lion3 Cable to Help IPGP With Seismic Monitoring
FLY-Lion32020/01/16TelecomPaperFLY-Lion3 submarine cable to help IPGP monitor seismic activity
WACS2020/01/16MyBroadbandSlow Internet speeds for South Africans due to cable outage
PEACE2020/01/20Capacity MediaPCCW Global in PEACE Cable Southern Africa Extension
PEACE2020/01/21Agence EcofinPEACE confie à PCCW Global l’extension de son câble sous-marin de fibre optique à l’Afrique australe
ELLALINK2020/01/24Balancing ActNew East African cable DARE1 will be operational in March 2020 and Ella Link will add new West African connections this year
DARE12020/03/06KBCEast Africa’s largest submarine cable lands in Mombasa
DARE12020/03/09The Star KenyaNew fibre optic to enhance internet speed
DARE12020/03/10ITWeb AfricaNew US$86-m cable lands in Kenya
EQUIANO2020/03/12Submarine NetworksLiquid Telecom to Build Cable Landing Station for Equiano in DR Congo
MAINONE2020/03/30Agence EcofinMainOne apporte la connectivité en Côte d’Ivoire
METISS2020/03/31Submarine Cable NetworksLiquid Telecom Lands METISS Cable in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
EQUIANO2020/04/02Submarine NetworksGoogle's Equiano Cable to Land at Telkom's Melkbosstrand CLS in South Africa
ELLALINK2020/04/14Capacity MediaEllaLink: connecting Europe to Latin America
SHARE2020/05/01Developing TelecomsSenegal-Cape Verde cable now under way
SHARE2020/05/04ExtensiaSenegal-Cape Verde cable now under way
2AFRICA2020/05/14FacebookBuilding 2Africa, a transformative subsea cable to better connect Africa
2AFRICA2020/05/22MyBroadbandNew undersea Internet cable for Africa – All the details about 2Africa
2AFRICA2020/05/25Mail & GuardianInside Facebook’s big bet on Africa
EQUIANO2020/06/08Punch NigeriaTelcos threatened as Facebook, Google plan subsea cable – Punch Newspapers
ELLALINK2020/08/18Agence EcofinLe Cap-Vert veut accueillir le câble sous-marin EllaLink d’ici fin 2020
EASSY2020/08/21Capacity MediaWIOCC secures $20 million loan to boost African connectivity
NZADI2020/10/29Developing TelecomsAngolan offshore cable project begins
EQUIANO2020/11/02Telecom ReviewTelecom Egypt signs agreement with St Helena Government to provide it with its first subsea solution
SACS2020/12/21CircleIDUnintended Consequences of Submarine Cable Deployment on Internet Routing
NZADI2020/12/28Ecofin AgencyAlgeria to be connected to a fourth submarine optical cable
EQUIANO2020/12/28Ecofin AgencyLiquid Telecom gets permit to build subsea cable landing station in DR Congo
DARE12020/12/28Ecofin AgencyDjibouti Telecom, Somtel, and Telkom Kenya announce that installation of the DARE1 submarine cable system is underway

Terrestrial Backbone Fibre

The pandemic doesn’t seem to have inhibited investments in terrestrial fibre networks. There are three noticeable trends in this year. The first is increasing regionalisation and cross-border fibre. Large operators like Orange with their Djoliba regional fibre network in West Africa are recognising the benefits of infrastructure that can span multiple markets. They are playing catch-up though with the likes of Liquid Telecom in Eastern and Southern Africa.

The second trend of note is the increasing focus on dig-once policies that leverage infrastructure investments in road, rail, and other infrastructure to deploy fibre at the same time, notably in northern Kenya and Nigeria.

Lastly, there is a growing frustration with the under utilisation of national fibre backbones. Fibre networks are the deep water ports of network infrastructure yet they are still treated as commodities to maximise return on rather than infrastructure which can boost entire economies.

CountryOperatorDatePublicationArticle
Congo2020/01/24Agence EcofinCongo : Léon Juste Ibombo exige des corrections aux manquements constatés sur le réseau de fibre optique Congo-Gabon
Malawi2020/01/24ITWeb AfricaMalawi pens US$72.4-million global connectivity contract
CameroonCamtel2020/01/25Agence EcofinCameroun : l’opérateur public Camtel en passe de céder le transport par la fibre optique à une nouvelle entité
Cameroon2020/02/03Business in CameroonCentral Africa Backbone : Cameroon deployed additional 105 km of fiber in 2019
Uganda2020/02/10Monitor UgandaUnder utilisation of govt Internet pushes up costs
South SudanLiquid Telecom2020/02/24ITWeb AfricaLiquid Telecom announces first fibre service in South Sudan
Uganda2020/02/25Monitor UgandaUncoordinated government entities causing loss of billions
Gabon2020/02/26Agence EcofinGabon : 26 villes bientôt interconnectées à Libreville par fibre optique
Uganda2020/03/05ITWeb AfricaUganda approaches China for US$150-m tech loan
Gabon2020/03/09ITWeb AfricaGabon to link 26 cities via fibre backbone
DjiboutiDjibouti Telecom2020/03/20TelegeographyCable Compendium: a guide to the week’s submarine and terrestrial developments
Congo2020/04/21Agence EcofinCongo: pour 2020 et 2021, le gouvernement auditera la gestion du projet Central Africa Backbone
Sierra LeoneSALCAB2020/04/28Global Times SLSALCAB Fibre Optic Equipments Arrive – Global Times News
Sierra LeoneSALCAB2020/04/28SN RadioPresident Bio Kick-starts his Agenda of Digitalizing Sierra Leone
Sierra LeoneSALCAB2020/04/28The CalabashGovt. Secures $30M Loan to Commence Fiber Optic Connectivity, Phase 2
Burkina FasoMainOne2020/05/29TelegeographyCable Compendium: a guide to the week’s submarine and terrestrial developments
Burkina FasoMainOne2020/05/29Developing TelecomsMainOne to support Burkina Faso connectivity project
Gabon2020/06/23Agence EcofinGabon: le tronçon de fibre optique Boué-Bitam sera livré dans quelques jours
ZambiaFibrecom2020/07/09Nextv News AfricaFibrecom expands fiber optic cable in Zambia
Gabon2020/07/22Agence EcofinLe tronçon de fibre optique qui interconnecte le Congo au Gabon est à nouveau opérationnel
Zimbabwe2020/08/06TechZimTelOne commissions Makuti-Chirundu Fibre Link
Cameroon2020/08/11Agence EcofinLe Congo a entamé le chantier d’interconnexion par fibre optique au Cameroun
South Africa2020/09/04Engineering NewsParatus activates direct terrestrial fibre link from Teraco to Maputo
Kenya2020/09/09Business Daily AfricaWorld Bank approves Sh81bn loan for Isiolo-Mandera road upgrade
ZambiaParatus2020/09/18TelecomPaperParatus Zambia deploys 100 Gbps metro fibre ring in Lusaka for better enterprise service
ZambiaParatus2020/09/18ITNews AfricaParatus Deploys 100Gig Fibre Ring in Zambia
DRC2020/09/20Daily News EgyptBenya, DRC Government partner to build, operate national fibre optics network
Sierra Leone2020/09/30SL MinistryPhase Two Fibre Optic To Kick Off
ZambiaMTN, ZTE2020/10/02ZTEMTN Zambia signs a partnership with ZTE
ZambiaMTN2020/10/05Connecting AfricaConnecting Africa
Kenya2020/10/26Agence EcofinKenya: le gouvernement déploie 630 km de fibre optique dans le nord de la Rift Valley
Kenya2020/10/26The Star KenyaState launches installation of Sh3bn fibre optic cable in Rift Valley
Kenya2020/10/27Business Daily AfricaFibre network set to bridge digital gap in four counties
Kenya2020/10/27Biz Tech AfricaKenya's ICT Authority launches rehabilitated Eldoret to Nakodok fibre optic cable
Kenya2020/10/28Business Daily AfricaFibre optic project timely
Kenya2020/10/30Kenya EngineerICT Authority launches the construction of 630 kilometre high-speed fibre optic cable, at Nadapal
RegionalOrange2020/11/06ITWeb AfricaOrange to officially announce Djoliba fibre network launch
RegionalOrange2020/11/10Capacity MediaOrange launches Djoliba: the first pan-West African network
RegionalOrange2020/11/11ITWeb AfricaWest Africa’s Djoliba backbone launched
DRC2020/11/18African Wireless CommunicationsEgyptian firm to build DRC fibre network
Gabon2020/11/19Agence EcofinCentral Africa Backbone : le Cameroun et la Guinée équatoriale connectés au Gabon par fibre optique
Uganda2020/11/22New Vision UgandaMuseveni Commissions Phase 4 Of Internet Connectivity Project
Chad2020/11/26Agence EcofinL’interconnexion par la fibre optique du Tchad au Niger a démarré
Botswana2020/11/26ITNews AfricaLiquid Telecom Expands Connectivity in Botswana
Chad Niger2020/12/03ITWeb AfricaChad and Niger tap into €28.7m fibre project
Central African Republic2020/12/08Agence EcofinLa Covid-19 et les lourdeurs administratives ont retardé les travaux de liaison par fibre optique de la RCA au Cameroun
Mauritania2020/12/23Tech GIS AfricaZTE completes the deployment of Mauritania’s first national backbone network
Chad2020/12/28Ecofin AgencyThe optical fiber interconnection between Chad and Niger has started
Nigeria2020/12/28Ecofin AgencyNigeria: govt kicks off the deployment of optical fiber in northern states
Nigeria2020/03/23Africa Business MagazineNigeria rolls out broadband to boost growth
Mauritania2020/12/30Ecofin AgencyZTE completes construction of national optical fiber network in Mauritania

FTTH and OTT

Savvy ISPs continue to invest in FTTH services. Fibre costs more to deploy but can deliver high-speed access without the expense and politics of acquiring LTE/5G spectrum. Which is not to say that rights of way / wayleaves are not a challenge but they are generally not as difficult a barrier to overcome. MNOs have not been standing still however and have begun to invest in their own FTTH networks and services.

CategoryCountryOperatorDatePublicationArticle
FTTHRwandaLiquid Telecom2020/02/26New Times RwandaLiquid Telecom slashes home fibre internet prices by 60%
FTTHRwandaLiquid Telecom2020/02/26ITWeb AfricaLiquid Telecom Rwanda launches 'Liquid Home' fibre broadband
FTTHCôte d’IvoireVivendi2020/03/13Agence EcofinVivendi Africa déploie Canalbox, son offre internet très haut débit en Côte d’Ivoire
FTTHNigeria2020/07/09Techpoint AfricaLagos, Nigeria is building its own unified Internet fibre infrastructure
FTTHGhanaVodafone2020/07/10Tech Africa NewsVodafone Ghana starts FTTH to improve internet speeds in the country
FTTHCôte d’IvoireOrange2020/10/01Agence EcofinCôte d’Ivoire : Orange lance la fibre optique à San Pedro, avant de couvrir les toutes autres villes en très haut débit
FTTHSouth AfricaOctotel2020/10/13Capacity MediaActis acquires $140m stake in Octotel
FTTHKenyaSafaricom2020/10/16Business Daily AfricaSafaricom business fibre connections jump 99pc
FTTHBeninIsocel2020/10/21TelegeographyIsocel to deploy 500km fibre network around Cotonou, after securing funding
FTTHBeninIsocel2020/10/26ITWeb AfricaBenin ISP Isocel raises €6-million for aggressive network expansion
FTTHCameroon2020/10/29Agence EcofinLe Cameroun cible un linéaire de 25 000 Km de fibre optique, pour élargir l’accès à Internet
FTTHBeninIsocel2020/12/28Ecofin AgencyIsocel Benin gets €6mln from Bpifrance to broaden network scope
OTTNigeriaAirtel2020/01/06Broadcasting and MediaAirtel Partners With Trace Africa And Rolls Out TV Platform
OTTNigeriaAirtel2020/01/10Broadcasting and MediaAirtel Nigeria Goes Live With Airtel TV
OTTSouth Africa2020/02/24African Business MagazineAfrica dances to streaming revolution
OTTNigeriaNetflix2020/02/26Okay AfricaNetflix Launches 'Netflix Naija' and Announces First Nigerian Original Series
OTTSouth AfricaNetflix2020/02/28BBCNetflix’s first African series, Queen Sono, premieres
OTTNigeriaGoogle2020/06/07Punch NigeriaFG plans to tax Netflix, Facebook, others – Punch Newspapers
OTTSouth AfricaSABC2020/10/22The CitizenSABC to launch its own video streaming service – The Citizen

Licensed Spectrum

The pandemic presented a particular challenge to the release of spectrum to operators. While most spectrum auctions around the world were delayed in 2020, a number of African regulators, including Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe acted quickly to release spectrum to operators to help them cope with increased demand for capacity on their networks. Where operators had existing spectrum, this helped to expand capacity on existing networks but typically did not result in new infrastructure being built, partly due to the uncertainty related to the permanence of the spectrum making infrastructure investment risky but also the physical challenges of construction logistics during the pandemic.

Some operators like Airtel in Nigeria received more formal assignments of spectrum but that was more the exception than the rule. South Africa’s planned massive auction of spectrum which was to be held in 2020 was delayed until March 2021. After ten years of waiting, there is a lot of pent up expectation around it.

CategoryCountryFrequencyOperatorDatePublicationArticle
5GSouth AfricaLiquid Telecom2020/01/20Capacity MediaLiquid Telecom to start wholesale 5G network in South Africa
5GSouth AfricaVodacom2020/05/06MyBroadbandMyBroadband tests Vodacom 5G – Unexpected results
5GMadagascarTelma2020/07/01ITWeb AfricaTelma, Ericsson launch commercial 5G services in Madagascar
5GSeychelles2020/07/06ITWeb AfricaSeychelles operator CWS launches 5G network
5GSouth AfricaMTN2020/06/04ITNews AfricaMTN Planning to Launch a 5G Network at the End of June
5GSouth AfricaMTN2020/06/30TechCentralMTN 5G launch: Everything you need to know
5GMadagascarTelma2020/07/01TelegeographyTelma launches commercial 5G services
AuctionTanzania700MHz 1800MHzAirtel2020/02/03The East AfricanAirtel expands 4G network in Tanzania as regional units record revenue growth
AuctionTanzania700MHz 1800MHzAirtel2020/02/04TelegeographyAirtel awarded 1800MHz, 700MHz spectrum in Tanzania
AuctionNigeria900MHzAirtel2020/03/09TechNextAirtel Africa Acquires Additional 10MHz Spectrum for $94 Million to Boost Services
AuctionSouth Africa2020/09/03ITWebICASA pushes back spectrum auction to next year
AuctionEgyptVodafone2020/09/20EnterpriseVodafone Egypt, WE bid for new cellular frequencies
AuctionEgypt2600MHzOrange2020/10/04EnterpriseOrange Egypt, Etisalat Misr offered 20-MHz spectrum package
AuctionSouth Africa2020/10/27News24Auctioning additional spectrum won't bring down high data costs, says watchdog
LTENigeria9mobile2020/02/21The Nation Nigeria9mobile extends 4G services to 16 cities
LTELiberia2020/02/24AllAfricaLiberia: LTA, Partners, Take Sustainable Telecommunication Services to Grand Kru
LTESenegalExpresso2020/03/05TelegeographyExpresso to launch commercial 4G services on 31 March
LTESenegal800MHzExpresso2020/03/06Developing TelecomsExpresso switches on 4G network in Senegal
LTENigeria9mobile2020/03/20Africa Business Communities[Nigeria] 9mobile expands 4G-LTE coverage in Kaduna
LTEMadagascarTelma2020/03/25Developing TelecomsTelma completes nationwide LTE-A upgrade
LTESenegalExpresso2020/04/02Agence EcofinSénégal : Expresso reporte le déploiement de sa 4G
LTEBotswanaOrange2020/06/18Developing TelecomsOrange Botswana launches enhanced 4G services
LTENamibiaTelecom Namibia2020/07/17TelegeographyTelecom Namibia upgrades its 3G and 4G networks
LTENigeriaTizeti2020/07/29TelegeographyTizeti upgrades core network infrastructure capacity to 100Gbps
LTENigerOrange2020/04/06Niameyeties2joursL'opérateur de télécoms Zamani, repreneur d’Orange Niger, investit 12 milliards de FCFA pour la 4G
LTEMauritania2020/10/05Telegeography4G licences finally allocated in Mauritania
LTE-ABurkina FasoTelecel 2020/12/28Ecofin AgencyBurkina Faso: Telecel kicks off 4G+ technology
SpectrumUganda South Africa Kenya2020/01/21ITNews Africa3 Major 5G Networks Launch across Africa
SpectrumKenyaSafaricom2020/01/24TechPoint AfricaIdle frequency spectrum to be taken back from telcos, broadcasters by Kenyan regulator
SpectrumKenya3500MHzSafaricom2020/03/18The Nation Kenya5G mobile network boosts Kenya's opportunities
SpectrumNigerOrange2020/04/07Developing TelecomsNigerien operator awarded 4G licence
SpectrumNigerOrange2020/04/07TelegeographyNiger awards 4G licence to Orange, renews 2G and 3G permits
SpectrumSouth Africa2020/04/10TechCentralIcasa receives three dozen applications for temporary spectrum
SpectrumSouth Africa2020/04/17Engineering NewsIcasa assigns temporary spectrum
SpectrumSouth Africa2020/04/17ICASATemporary radio frequency spectrum issued to qualifying applicants in an effort to deal with COVID-19 communication challenges​​ — Independent Communications Authority of South Africa
SpectrumSouth Africa2020/04/17ITWebICASA releases emergency lockdown spectrum
SpectrumSouth AfricaVodacom2020/04/19TechCentralHow Vodacom plans to use emergency spectrum
SpectrumSouth AfricaTelkom2020/04/20TechCentralInterview: Telkom's Siyabonga Mahlangu on Icasa and spectrum relief
SpectrumGhana2020/04/29ITWeb AfricaGhana secures OpenRAN agreement with Parallel Wireless
SpectrumSouth Africa2020/05/11ITWebICASA ‘committed’ to see through spectrum licensing in 2020
SpectrumZambia2020/05/27ITWeb AfricaZambia releases free additional spectrum
SpectrumGhanaMTN2020/06/08MyJoyOnlineGovernment moves to curtail MTN’s 'monopolisation' of telecom industry
SpectrumGhanaMTN2020/06/08Ghana GossipGovt Takes Steps To Break MTN’s ‘Monopoly’, Says One Network Cannot Dominate The Country’s Telco Space
SpectrumSouth AfricaVodacom, MTN2020/06/12MyBroadbandTemporary spectrum – What Vodacom, MTN, Telkom, and Rain are doing
SpectrumBotswana2020/07/28LexAfricaBotswana Communications Regulatory Authority's response to the COVID pandemic-19
SpectrumAlgeriaDjezzy, Mobilis, Ooredoo2020/08/26Agence EcofinAlgérie: du spectre télécoms supplémentaire libéré pour pallier les perturbations actuelles d’Internet
SpectrumTanzaniaRaha2020/08/28The CitizenTanzania communications regulatory fines Raha Sh11.8 billion
SpectrumTanzania2020/08/30WeeTrackerRaha Liquid Telcom Has Been Fined USD 5 Mn For Regulatory Violations
SpectrumEgyptVodafone2020/11/05TelegeographyVodafone Egypt bags additional 2.6GHz spectrum
SpectrumGhana2020/11/26NCA GhanaFree Spectrum Granted to Some Service Providers Since April for COVID-19, General Elections and Festive Season » National Communications Authority
SpectrumGhanaMTN, Vodafone2020/12/01TelegeographyNCA extends free spectrum to MTN and Vodafone
SpectrumBenin2300MHz 2600MHz 3500MHz2020/12/02TelegeographyARCEP consults on frequency allocation for internet access services
SpectrumGhanaHuawei2020/12/28TelegeographyHuawei plans 2,000 new rural telecom sites in Ghana
SpectrumAlgeria2020/12/28Ecofin AgencyAlgeria to release additional telecom spectrums to fix network disruptions
LTE-ACôte d’IvoireMTN2020/12/18Ecofin AgencyMTN kicks off 4.5G network in Côte d’Ivoire

Unlicensed and Dynamic Spectrum

Arguably the most successful access technology deployed to build new access infrastructure during the pandemic was WiFi. Cheap and not subject to complex and expensive licensing process, WiFi projects to extend affordable access proliferated.

TVWS technology also looks like it is finally going to reach critical mass on the continent with Kenya and Nigeria announcing draft regulations for TVWS use and South Africa granting access to TVWS spectrum as part of their COVID-19 response.

CategoryCountryDatePublicationArticle
WiFiUganda2020/01/15ForbesWiFi-Enabled ‘Hello Hubs’ Bring Internet To Underserved Communities In Uganda
WiFiKenya2020/01/22TechweezSafaricom Spotted Testing Chargeable WiFi Zones in Nairobi
WiFiMalawi2020/01/27ITWeb AfricaMalawi: 10, 000 public sites earmarked for connectivity
WiFiRegional2020/02/17HTXTCisco joins Facebook's Express WiFi to broaden access to connectivity
WiFiSouth Africa2020/02/17TechcrunchGoogle ends its free Wi-Fi program Station
WiFiSouth Africa2020/02/17ITNews AfricaGoogle Quickly Drops Out Of Free WiFi Initiative In South Africa
WiFiSouth Africa2020/02/17ITWeb Free WiFi to stay in Cape Town, despite Google Station exit
WiFiSouth Africa2020/02/17QuartzGoogle is shutting down Google Station — Quartz
WiFiLiberia2020/02/28Developing TelecomsK-Net and Liberian regulator delivering rural towers
WiFiSouth Africa2020/03/05WiFiNowInvestor: Case for profitable Wi-Fi-based ISPs still very much alive
WiFiSouth Africa2020/03/13Agence EcofinAfrique du Sud : Facebook est décidé à avancer dans le Wifi, un marché où Google a jeté l’éponge
WiFiNigeria2020/03/25Vanguard NigeriaFiam wifi debuts to provide affordable data for users
WiFiNigeria2020/03/25ITNews AfricaFiam WiFi Plans to Bring Affordable, Reliable Internet to Lagos
WiFiUganda2020/05/24TechjajaUCC set to deploy free public WiFi hotspots at 5 border points
WiFiMadagascar2020/06/12Agence EcofinMadagascar : le ministre des Télécoms promet des hotspots Wifi dans chaque région du pays
WiFiNigeria2020/08/04ITPulseFiam WiFi enters Nigerian Internet market via hotspots for everyone
WiFiNigeria2020/08/19WiFiNowConnectivity in Lagos: Thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots is the answer, says Fiam
WiFiUganda2020/08/28Kampala PostUCC Launches WiFi Hotspot Project in 5 Major Border Posts
WiFiMozambique2020/09/04Club of MozambiqueNamacurra now has its very own digital square as Mozambique’s rural communities benefit from free Internet project
WiFiUganda2020/10/13TechjajaRoke Telkom, Facebook Partner to launch Express WiFi in Uganda – Techjaja
WiFiUganda2020/10/13Roke Telecom PRRoke Telkom Partners with Facebook to Bring High Speed Internet to Millions of Ugandans
WiFiMadagascar2020/10/14Agence EcofinMadagascar: le déploiement de bornes Wi-Fi à travers le pays a démarré
WiFiUganda2020/10/27ITWeb AfricaFacebook’s Express Wi-Fi initiative launched in Uganda
WiFiGhana2020/12/28Ecofin AgencyGhana: 13 universities join the free Wi-Fi project
TVWSNigeria2019/12/31NCC NigeriaPUBLIC NOTICE: Draft Guidelines on the use of Television White Space (TVWS) in Nigeria
TVWSNigeria2020/01/09Space In AfricaNigerian Communications Commission Develops Draft Guidelines For Use Of TV White Spaces In Nigeria
TVWSSouth Africa2020/02/05TechDotAfricaIndigo Broadband Brings Carlson Wireless' Network Technology to Africa
TVWSSouth Africa2020/02/10ITWeb Pre-commercial TV white space projects take off in SA
TVWSKenya2020/03/03CA KenyaPublic Consultation on the Draft Dynamic Spectrum Access Framework for Authorisation of the Use of Tv White Spaces.
TVWSSouth Africa2020/04/28TechCentralMorai Solutions to roll out rural TV white-spaces network
TVWSSouth Africa2020/05/10BusinessLiveTV white spaces change the rural Wi-Fi game
TVWSSouth Africa2020/05/11ITWeb CSIR, TIA in television white space collaboration
TVWSSouth Africa2020/05/17MyBroadbandHow unused TV spectrum can deliver affordable Internet
TVWSSouth Africa2020/05/18TechCentralInfographic: Solving broadband access for SA with TV white spaces
TVWSSouth Africa2020/10/22Engineering NewsTelevision White Spaces network operators can now use CSIR’s geolocation spectrum database
TVWSSouth Africa2020/10/22Engineering NewsTelevision White Spaces network operators can now use CSIR’s geolocation spectrum database
TVWSUganda2019/12/31UCC UgandaRadio spectrum management activities and publications – UCC: Uganda Communications Commission

Towers

The tower business in 2020 saw mostly sell-offs and consolidation as a few big tower operators seem set to dominate the market.

CountryOperatorDatePublicationArticle
South Africa GhanaMTN2020/01/02TechCentralMTN offloads tower assets for R7.3-billion
Ghana UgandaMTN2020/01/03Nigeria Communications WeekMTN Exits Towers Businesses in Ghana, Uganda
South Africa, GhanaATC2020/01/03Connecting AfricaAmerican Tower Buys Eaton, Acquires JV Stakes From MTN
Ghana UgandaATC2020/01/03YahooAmerican Tower Expands in Africa, Closes Eaton Towers Buyout
RegionalATC2020/01/06Developing TelecomsTwo major deals increase tower company’s presence in Africa
Ghana UgandaATC2020/01/13Capacity MediaAmerican Tower inks $523m deal with MTN for stakes in Ghana and Uganda towers
South AfricaMTN, IHS2020/02/05The Africa ReportIHS telecom tower debt levels cloud outlook for MTN asset sales
GhanaMTN2020/03/24Capacity MediaMTN proceeds with ATC Ghana sale
SenegalHelios2020/08/12Developing TelecomsHelios Towers acquiring over 1,200 sites from Free Senegal
KenyaLiquid Telecom2020/01/16AllAfricaKenya: Liquid Telecom Rolls Out 138 Base Stations Across Kenya
NigeriaATC2020/12/28Ecofin AgencyNigeria: ATC to get 189 telecom towers from Salasar Techno Engineering

Datacentres

Datacentres are a new category for the annual review and are fast becoming one of the most critical investments for any country interested in the growth of domestic internet business and traffic.

CountryOperatorDatePublicationArticle
KenyaOpera 2020/02/19CIO Kenya4 times faster browsing in Kenya due to Mombasa Opera Servers
Congo2020/03/13Data Center DynamicsCentral African countries sign deals to get submarine cable and new data center
UgandaRaxio2020/04/01African Business MagazineUganda gets internet boost with new data centre
South Africa2020/05/22TelecomPaperAfrica Data Centres completes acquisition of Standard Bank data centre in Johannesburg
Ghana, NigeriaLiquid Telecom2020/05/22TelecomPaperLiquid Telecom plans data centres in Ghana, Nigeria
South AfricaAmazon2020/07/07AmazonThe New AWS Region in Africa
Data CentresRegional2020/10/26BloombergLiquid Telecom Raises $307 Million in African Data Center Push
Guinea2020/09/17Agence EcofinLa Guinée lance la construction de son tout premier centre de données national

Satellite

Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites dominated the news in 2020 with OneWeb managing to go bankrupt and exit bankruptcy before the year was out. Elon Musk’s Starlink launched hundreds of satellites and began to offer ‘beta’ service in the United States and Canada. None of this is especially relevant to African countries so far and the jury is out as to whether LEO satellites are a desirable or sustainable solution to the challenge of affordable access for all. Meanwhile, everyone else from Jeff Bezos to the European Union, China, and Russia have announced their intention to build a LEO constellation.

Miscellaneous

Notable for me but not fitting in any particular category has been the slow but steady growth of Africa Mobile Networks who have made a business out of designing mobile network in places that are not economically viable for the big operators.

CategoryCountryOperatorDatePublicationArticle
ChinaRegionalTranssion2020/06/23RestofWorldTecno, Infinix, Itel phones: How China’s Transsion took over Africa
ChinaRegional2020/08/17The DiplomatChina, the World Bank, and African Debt: A War of Words – The Diplomat
ChinaZambia2020/08/27XinhuaZambian leader calls for operationalization of China-funded communication towers
ChinaRegional2020/05/18New York TimesThe Coronavirus Threatens China's Belt and Road Loans
Community NetworksSouth Africa2020/03/09IOLTechnology connecting remote village could be replicated, says Nzimande
Community NetworksKenya2020/10/15KictanetCommunity Networks, a democratic approach to internet access. Bottom-Up Citizen Models to Universal and Affordable Access in Kenya
Covid-19ZambiaMTN2020/05/21Developing TelecomsMTN Zambia to enhance coverage and capacity
Covid-19Kenya2020/08/20Business Daily AfricaPublic primary schools to get internet at Sh15 billion
Digital MigrationGhana2020/01/20PulseGhana ready to switch from analogue to digital terrestrial technology in June 2020, here’s how
Digital MigrationMadagascar2020/02/07Broadcasting and MediaMadagascar Set To Migrate To DTT In June 2020
Digital MigrationNigeria2020/07/03Broadcasting and MediaNigeria: Govt Minister Says Digital Switchover Will Fetch US$1.1Billion
Digital MigrationSouth Africa2020/12/08TechCentralDigital migration deadline slips to 2023
Digital MigrationSouth Africa2020/09/14TechCentralNo digital migration before 2022: director-general
Internet ShutdownsRegional2020/01/10ITWeb AfricaAfrica loses $2bn from Internet shutdowns
LicensingNamibiaMTC2020/05/15ITWeb AfricaMTC vents over Windhoek municipality telco licence
LicensingZimbabwe2020/06/08State of the Nation ZimbabwePOTRAZ cancels 10 licences for Internet Service Providers
MergerKenyaTelkom Kenya2020/08/05Business Daily AfricaTelkom Kenya, Airtel hang up on merger citing approval delays
New LicenseUganda2020/01/27UCC UgandaAPPROVED NEW TELECOMMUNICATIONS LICENSE CATEGORIES – Uganda Communications Commission Blog
New LicenseCameroon2020/03/16Developing TelecomsThree new licences for CamTel
New OperatorUgandaLycaMobile2020/01/16TechJajaNew telecom company called Lycamobile Uganda launches – Techjaja
OpenRANNigeriaHotspot Network2020/12/16Capacity MediaRural Nigerian company to install wholesale open RAN
OtherCameroon2020/01/02Actu CameroonUne prorogation du projet Central Africa Backbone dédié au déploiement de la fibre optique sollicitée par le Cameroun à la BAD
OtherTanzania2020/02/04Daily News TanzaniaSome Telecom Towers Ineffective, Bunge Told
OtherBenin2020/02/12CIO MagazineA Bénin Télécoms Services SA, nous voulons « davantage contribuer à la réduction de la fracture numérique au Bénin », William Gatien Tedji
PolicyGhanaMTN2020/06/29MyJoyOnlineKafui Amanfu: Levelling the playing field for telcos
PolicyRegional2020/12/09New Times RwandaAfrican leaders commit to reduce internet cost by 50%
PolicyCameroon Gabon Chad2020/12/28Total TelecomNo roaming charges between Central African countries in 2021
PrivacyNiger2020/06/12ITWeb AfricaNiger Republic’s communications Bill stirs controversy
PrivacySouth Africa2020/10/01MyBroadbandThe “secret” Vumacam plan
PrivacyKenyaSafaricom2020/01/20Tech-ishSafaricom needs to fix M-Pesa privacy issues before it gets bad
PrivacyRegional2020/02/03The Africa ReportInside Africa’s increasingly lucrative surveillance market
PrivacyRegional2020/12/01CitizenLabRunning in Circles: Uncovering the Clients of Cyberespionage Firm Circles
Rural ConnectivityDRC2020/03/23Agence EcofinKonnect Africa va connecter 3 600 écoles à l'Internet haut débit en RDC durant les 12 prochains mois
Rural ConnectivityZambiaMTN2020/05/29ExtensiaZambia to receive Mobile Connectivity for hundreds of Off-Grid Communities
Rural ConnectivityRegionalAfrica Mobile Networks2020/09/11Balancing ActAMN set to up its low-cost rural base station portfolio to 5,000 sites with new investor and buys vendor Range Networks
Rural ConnectivityZambiaMTN2020/12/28Total TelecomVanu Selected by MTN Zambia to Extend Mobile Connectivity to Zambia’s Off-Grid Communities
Rural ConnectivityRegionalAfrica Mobile Networks2020/12/28Ecofin AgencyIntelsat, AMN connect thousands of remote areas in Africa
Silicon ValleyKenyaGoogle2020/11/10ITWeb AfricaEconet, X’s Project Taara to roll out new optical wireless tech
Silicon ValleyRegionalGoogle – Orange2020/12/28Ecofin AgencyOrange partners with Google to launch a low-cost smartphone in Africa
Silicon ValleyKenyaGoogle2020/04/03The Standard KenyaTwo loon balloons arrive in the country : The Standard
Silicon ValleyKenyaGoogle2020/04/21GoogleTake Me To Kenya
Silicon ValleyMozambiqueGoogle2020/05/13RCR WirelessVodacom, Loon bring internet balloons to rural Mozambique
Silicon ValleyMozambiqueGoogle, Vodacom2020/05/13ITWeb AfricaAlphabet’s Loon, Vodacom in connectivity alliance for Mozambique
Silicon ValleyRegionalFacebook2020/07/22ITWeb AfricaAfrica stands to gain US$57-bn from Facebook’s connectivity investment
Silicon ValleyRegionalFacebook2020/08/17WiredInside Facebook’s new power grab
Silicon ValleySouth Africa Nigeria Kenya2020/03/12ITNews AfricaFacebook Launches Community Accelerator Initiative in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa
Silicon ValleySouth Africa2020/06/18ITNews AfricaAmazon Launches 3,000 Work-From-Home Jobs in South Africa
Silicon ValleyNigeriaFacebook2020/09/21ITWeb AfricaFacebook sets up second Africa office in Lagos
SIM RegistrationTanzania2020/01/18The East AfricanTanzania Sim card policies rated low
SIM RegistrationTanzania2020/01/22Daily News TanzaniaCrossed Fingers as SIM Registration Dilemma Continues
SIM RegistrationTanzania2020/01/30ReutersTanzania says may switch off 15 mln SIM cards in biometric registration 
SIM RegistrationNigeria2020/03/09Premium TimesNCC deactivates 2.2m improperly registered SIM Cards
UsageUganda2020/02/26Observer UgandaLimited internet access, high rates stifling female literacy
UsageGhanaMTN2020/02/27ITWeb AfricaMTN delivers double-digit growth in Ghana
UsageNigeria2020/03/15The Nation Nigeria31 million Nigerians yet to enjoy telecoms services
UsageRegional2020/03/27ITNews AfricaCOVID-19 News: WhatsApp Usage Grows by 40%
UsageKenyaSafaricom2020/04/29ITNews AfricaSafaricom Customers Use 1GB of Data Per Month on Average
UsageZimbabwe2020/06/10ITWeb AfricaZimbabwe records drop in internet subscriptions
UsageTanzania2020/09/01Connecting AfricaTanzania Adds 1 Million Mobile Subs in Q3

Summary

While the pandemic has been catastrophic in so many ways, the telecommunications sector, thanks to its critical role in providing access to services during lockdowns, has been another busy year. 2020 has taught us just how important the internet is as modern infrastructure.

I very much hope that if we have learned anything from this last year, it is that everyone needs affordable access to internet and that inclusion is the most important internet access metric of all.



This work would not have been possible without the support of the Mozilla Foundation, the Association for Progressive Communications, and the Network Startup Resource Center.

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Posted by Steve Song

@stevesong local telco policy activist. social entrepreneur. founder of @villagetelco #africa #telecoms #opensource #privacy #wireless #spectrum #data