In his inaugural speech at this weeks ITU/BDT Regional Seminar on Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) for rural and remote areas for Africa, His Excellency Mr Bello Bouba Magari, Minister of State, Minister of Post and Telecommunications of Cameroon stated: "There is a need to look urgently for innovative solutions to reduce the digital divide between urban and rural populations, as well as remote areas." Furthermore, he added, "A recent study commissioned by the government of Cameroon has revealed that our country has still delays in the realisation of the true information society, with coverage of less than 30% of the territory and high access costs to the Internet."
Millions of African mobile users stand to benefit from the cost-efficient deployment of 3G/UMTS networks at frequencies below 600MHz, the UMTS Forum has stated at the ITU/BDT Regional Seminar.
Addressing an audience of African mobile operators, suppliers and regulators in Yaound, Cameroon, UMTS Forum Chairman Jean-Pierre Bienaim pointed to 3G/UMTS as the most cost-effective path for Africa to offer mass-market mobile broadband services and close the digital divide. Indeed, several African network operators stated that smooth progressive technological evolution is fundamental factor for broadband service uptake in Africa.
"It's our strong hope that the whole 470-862 MHz band will be allocated to Mobile Services on a primary basis in all three ITU Regions and at least 2x30 MHz, within 470-600 MHz band, will be identified for UMTS/IMT-2000 at next year's World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-07). This initiative will improve cost-effective deployment of mobile broadband data services with wide area coverage.
"This will be particularly valuable in regions like Africa where data services are currently only available in urban centres. Following on from the first wave of successful 3G/UMTS deployments in Africa, the possibility of offering high bit-rate services to consumers and business users makes the economics of deploying 3G/UMTS on a continental basis even more compelling."
Pointing to the pace of commercial deployments in Europe, North America and Asia, Bienaim stressed that 3G/UMTS provides the most cost effective pathway to providing true mobile broadband for Africa's GSM operators:
"With over 80 million subscribers already enjoying a fast-growing range of mobile multimedia services worldwide, 3G/UMTS is now dominating the net additions picture in Western Europe", said Bienaim. "Several African countries have already commercially entered the mobile broadband world through a combination of 3G/WCDMA and EDGE", added Bienaim. "Africa is now taking a step towards the next generation of high-speed mobile broadband services with High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) that has already being introduced or trialled in South Africa and Tanzania.
"With a population of more than 900 million, there's still immense untapped potential for operators in the region to offer mobile broadband as a substitute for fixed-line services. 3G/UMTS and its evolution via HSPA provides the potential for Africa to offer cost effective access to the mobile Internet for millions of customers. In a continent where fixed-line penetration and PC usage still lags behind many world regions, 3G/UMTS presents an unprecedented opportunity for Africa to improve access to broadband services for all and close the digital divide."
The UMTS Forum delegation to Yaound was received by His Excellency the Minister of State, Minister of Post and Telecommunications. The meeting permitted the exchange of views on key issues relating to 3G/UMTS and mobile broadband in Cameroon and Africa. At this occasion, the membership of the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications in the UMTS Forum was confirmed officially.