Africa mobile users wait for competition to kick in

Mobile phone users in Africa may have to wait for a while to experience lower prices, although there is a considerable level of competition among operators, according to industry players who gathered in Accra for the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization’s (CTO) competition workshop last week.

“Cellular prices are quite high; they will go down as effective competition develops,” said Bill Wigglesworth, a telecommunications regulatory adviser at the workshop. The U.K.-based CTO is an association among governments and businesses who are members of the Commonwealth — the group of 54 developing and industrialized nations around the world, many of which are former British colonies — to promote development in communications and IT.

“These networks have invested enormously to build their networks and so, it is too early to expect prices to come down,” Wigglesworth elaborated.

The continent has seen a rapid growth on the cellular phone front recently. South Africa for instance has 16 million mobile subscribers compared to over four million fixed line subscribers, Wigglesworth said. The same trend of high mobile subscription against fixed line subscription replicates itself across the continent, he said.

The lack of interconnection among networks is the single most important barrier of entry to new competitors in the mobile sector, according to Edgardo Sep