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Infrastructure sharing to hasten ICT development

Mon, 25 August 2014 18:51
by Honorine Kaze
Business

Telecom Namibia (TN) Board Chairperson Maggy Beukes Amiss advised that infrastructure sharing could be a response against the challenges blocking a faster deployment of internet connectivity in the country.
In an interview with The Villager, she said “operators can either leverage on each other’s network or jointly fund expansion projects to fast track service availability in non urban areas and new coverage in general for internet services.”
She also noted that although West African Cable System (WACS) has connected Namibia as an information hub of the world, challenges still remain in the way of faster internet connectivity.
“There has been growth in the overall number of internet users, but the resources and geographical terrains remain a challenge for faster deployment of infrastructure to achieve higher penetration levels. The availability of affordable internet capable devices would enhance penetration of the internet,” she said.
A recent Communication Regulation Authority of Namibia market report has recently noted while Namibia’s mobile voice costs are recorded to be one of the cheapest in Africa, the mobile broadband, mobile prepaid voice and leased line prices are still quite high.
She added the availability of power and the necessary infrastructure to deploy in areas with inaccessible terrains as well as the cost of devices to connect to the internet are setbacks.
“Resources are required to deploy infrastructure and there is a balance between the two to justify the rolling out of internet solutions. We however deploy GSM based solutions in order to increase internet penetration.”
Beukes Amiss said that Telecom Namibia have deployed solutions to enable all Namibians to have access to the information highway which are available in urban and non-urban areas.
She noted the trend is moving towards internet on the device rather than traditional personal computers (PCs) and laptops; as a result the mobile internet penetration is higher than fixed lines.

“There has been growth in the overall number of internet users, but the resources and geographical terrains remain a challenge for faster deployment of infrastructure to achieve higher penetration levels. The availability of affordable internet capable devices would enhance penetration of the internet,” she said.

TN has also a partnership with the Ministry of Education through the Xnet Trust to provide internet to schools in deprived rural areas and public nature.
This effort is to further assist other initiatives such as internet on the device, TV whitespaces amongst others to introduce internet at the right levels of development, which will entrench the culture of internet usage.
She however, noted that even with those solutions deployed, there are still challenges encountered in the rural areas due to the availability of power and the physical geographical terrains, which require huge investments to deploy.
“The realisation of the Universal Service Fund (USF) which is to be carried out by the CRAN will have a positive effect on the enhancement of the internet, especially in non-urban areas.  It should be fast tracked to ensure complementary funding for capital projects in non-urban or new areas to complement the efforts of operators.”
Beukes Amiss who is also the ICT department Head of Department (HoD) at the University of Namibia (UNAM) suggested that in order to expand further internet connectivity in the country, there should be a general formula that would look at the number of users that have access to devices to connect to the internet, be it an urban or rural area.
On a general level, the creation of a country- wide ICT think tank engaging all stakeholders in the education and private sector is highly recommended to address such issues.