WiMAX Technology Could Spur the Growth of Digital TV in Africa

Friday, February 1st, 2008
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The penetration of digital TV services in Africa will begin to accelerate due to the proliferation of new technologies such as WiMAX. WiMAX has emerged as a serious player in underdeveloped regions where low bandwidth and inadequate infrastructure have limited the growth of broadband and digital TV services. In October 2007 there were an estimated 30,000 WiMAX subscribers in the Middle East and Africa, which is three times higher than numbers reported at the end of 2006.

“WiMAX deployments are critical in Africa because they enable networking in regions lacking fixed fiber infrastructure,” says analyst Anna Maxbauer, author of the IMS Research study Emerging DTV Markets: Africa & The Middle East. WiMAX facilitates connectivity in rural areas at low cost, delivering live IPTV and VOD transmissions in the absence of expensive DSL infrastructure build-outs. This is especially important for regions such as East Africa, where the lack of infrastructure has led to some of the highest connectivity costs in the world. Major WiMAX deployments have occurred in South Africa, Nigeria, and Uganda, with the city of Freetown in Sierra Leone achieving total citywide unrestricted WiFi/WiMAX coverage

Over ninety percent of WiMAX licenses allocated in Africa have gone to the higher capacity 3.4-3.6GHz band, which requires more base stations to operate. Unlicensed spectrum bands (5.0-5.8GHz) are common, but harder to manage due to the additional infrastructure required. . Decreasing prices of consumer premise equipment and increasing WiMAX connectivity on set-top boxes are trends that will have a clear impact on IP-based digital TV services in Africa. Maxbauer adds, “Local and regional operators should capitalize on low-cost technologies such as WiMAX in order to expand their coverage footprints and launch advanced services to previously unreachable African markets.”