African Telecommunications Union Secretary General John Omo.

Tech experts, regulators and other industry players are scouting for ways in which millions of Africans can gain access to the internet.

Across the Sub-Saharan region, approximately 800 million people are not connected to the mobile internet.

Of those, some 520 million people can access the mobile internet but do not because of factors such as smartphone penetration and lack of skills.

A total of 270 million others cannot access the mobile internet because they do not have the requisite coverage.

Additionally, less than half of the population in the region is covered by 4G mobile broadband. Achieving consensus on spectrum management will play a major role in addressing those shortfalls.

“We live in a time when we talk about digital as a default, about the digital transformation of our societies and economies, and the need for a fully connected society,” says Mario Maniewicz, Director of ITU’s Radio communication Bureau. “If this is to become a reality, broadband connectivity needs to be made accessible to all, even in the most remote areas.”

He was speaking during the sixth edition of the Sub-Sahara Spectrum Management Conference that is looking for a common stand on spectrum management.

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John Omo, Secretary General, African Telecommunications Union (ATU) said, “COVID-19 has kept people apart from each other, but the spectrum on mobile networks have built bridges and kept us together. Whether we succeed in our quest to further bridge the digital divide and address other challenges are pinned on our dedication to duty and the extent to which we want to go in using spectrum to address these challenges.”

He added that “society’s increasing need for radio-based technologies and the tremendous opportunities for social development that these technologies provide have elevated the importance of the radio frequency spectrum and of national spectrum management.”

Bringing the 1.1 billion Africans, who need to be brought more online will require “exceptional and coordinated efforts from government, from the private sector, from development partners, and civil society,” added Mr Omo emphasizing the need for collaboration and the ability to come up with common solutions. 

Samuel Chen, Vice President for Huawei Southern Africa region said “Radio Spectrum plays an important role in increasing Africa’s broadband penetration and throughput. African countries can allocate more spectrum to operators to accelerate the deployment of wireless broadband networks and increase people’s access to wireless broadband and data services at affordable prices, this will, in turn, promote the development of Africa’s digital economy.”

Among other issues, the conference will address the importance of the 700Mhz-800Mhz frequency bands for widespread coverage, and the need to address the skills gap when it comes to installing technologies. These technologies will enable the widespread adoption of the spectrum.

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