On the surface, 4G service rollout in African markets appears to be going well. Around 115 LTE networks are commercial or expected to launch in the continent before the end of 2018. On average, since 2015, around 20 new 4G networks launch in Africa every year. Operators are reporting double-digit traffic growth numbers. The African 4G base has been doubling every year, though from a small base.
We estimate the number of 4G connections on the continent at around 50m in 2017, a number which, on current trajectory, should rise to around 90m in 2018. Subject to a variety of assumptions, the number of 4G connections should quadruple to reach close to 350m within the next five years.
Relative size of multi-tenant data center colocation markets in the Middle East and Africa, by metro market and sub-region, as of 2018. Available data center colo space size is a strong indicator of digital service adoption and maturity.
During the past quarter, the African wholesale space has witnessed Liquid Telecom’s Cape to Cairo agreement, MainOne’s deal with Orange and the commercial launch of Angola Cables’ SACS. On the surface, these developments have little to do with one another. Taken together, we say they mean three things: bandwidth gluts don’t matter anymore, the African opportunity is about more than Africa, and OTT demand will determine (almost) everything.