The number of mobile broadband connections in Africa will reach 1bn by 2020, up from 147m at the end of 2014, according to new forecasts by technology advisory firm Ovum, which suggest that the ongoing rollout of 3G W-CDMA and 4G LTE networks will see the number of connections available on the continent explode over the next five years.
In addition to the spread of better quality connections, the increasing affordability of smartphones and other connected devices, along with further use of enterprise mobility by African companies and merchants, will accelerate adoption of mobile broadband.
At the end of 2014, mobile broadband accounted for just 17 per cent of the 884m total mobile subscriptions in Africa, but by the close of 2020, that is expected to have risen to 76 per cent of total subscriptions, which will also have grown to 1.32bn. Total mobile subscriptions are expected to cross the billion mark in early 2016.
"Although the pace of growth in overall connection numbers in Africa has slowed and the regional industry is facing some headwinds from rising competition and weaker economic conditions, there are substantial growth opportunities on the continent in data connectivity as well as in digital services that are based on those data connections," said Matthew Reed, practice leader for the Middle East and Africa at Ovum.
While Africa's fixed-line broadband market is also set to grow strongly over the next few years, the number of home broadband connections is still only expected to reach 1.2m by the end of 2020, demonstrating the success of mobile in this area.
Developers and digital services providers wanting to establish a foothold in the continent which could well boast huge audiences over the next few years should get their start by establishing offices in South Africa, according to Ovum's research.
"The South African market is among the most advanced on the continent, so it is to be expected that it leads in potential for digital media services," said Reed. "Nevertheless, there are digital media opportunities across the continent."