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Cisco Executive Sees Big Progress in African Broadband Adoption

in Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/International/Mobile Broadband by

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2010 – Broadband adoption in Africa has historically lagged when ranked globally, but its use has been growing steadily in recent years, said Yvon Le Roux, Cisco vice president for Africa and Levant.

In an interview conducted by Cisco’s internal news bureau, Le Roux said there’s recently been a significant growth in mobile broadband in Africa.

“That is huge. There is more mobile than fixed-line communications across the continent, and it is not going to stop,” he said. “Mobile growth here will soon be on the verge of surpassing even Eastern Europe.”

The reason for this growth of broadband adoption, according to Le Roux, was an increased amount of coverage being provided on Africa’s coasts. He expects the trend to provide a broadband blueprint for other African nations. The coverage is provided largely through submarine cables, which Le Roux praised as a mechanism for extending availability.

“These cables are connecting to form multiple golden rings of opportunity for Africa, offering 1.2 terabytes per second of capacity apiece and linking 45 cities around the continent, each with more than a million inhabitants,” Le Roux said. “And once everyone is connected around the edges of the continent, it will be much easier for connectivity to reach the interior.”

As an example of how this outreach has convinced African leaders to invest in broadband, Le Roux cited Tanzania’s president, who was convinced by a demonstration of SEACOM cable broadband that the expansion of internet access was necessary.

“With the inauguration of the SEACOM cable we showed the president of Tanzania how a multimedia file that would previously have taken 31 hours to download could be downloaded in just 15 minutes,” Le Roux said. “The international bandwidth supply went up 1,000 percent after the arrival of SEACOM and Vodacom stated that margins had increased 30 percent when it switched from satellite to the cable. In Kenya, internet speeds were up five-fold within three days of cable connections arriving, and within 14 days the service provider Safaricom reported a 200 percent increase in data traffic.”

Le Roux also made it clear that while obstacles to broadband expansion in Africa exist, digital illiteracy and cultural opposition to the technology were not among them.

“The view of people from outside is that Africans do not understand [information technology],” he said, adding South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Kenya are very active in engaging in large IT infrastructure build-outs.

“We are therefore starting to see tremendous business opportunities in places like South Africa,” he said.

“We are also helping to develop security applications and community hospitals in Tunisia” and working with the Kenyan government in rural areas.

Mytheos Holt recently graduated from Wesleyan University with a B.A. in Government and History, receiving high honors in Government. He served as a weekly columnist at the Wesleyan Argus, Wesleyan University's campus-wide newspaper, and founded the Wesleyan Witness political commentary magazine. He is originally from Big Sur, Calif., and currently resides in Washington, D.C.

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