Africa desperately needs more innovation in spectrum allocation

Back in 2019, Steve Song at Many Possibilities wrote a blog post explaining how spectrum auctions led to worse outcomes for competition and rural access. The high reserve price of auctions was a barrier to entry to any apart from the large operators. The result was unused spectrum. Zambia is the latest example: In April 2022, it invited bids for spectrum in 800MHz and 2600MHz. MTN and Airtel were awarded spectrum for a price of USD 41.5 million. 40MHz in the 2600MHz band was left unsold. ZICTA plans on putting this up for auction again in Q3 2022, along with […]

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Different stages of the growth curve: Africa vs. Europe

Airtel Africa released its financial results this week: Revenues increased by 21.3% from US$ 3.8 to US$ 4.7 billion. EBITDA margin increased from 46% to 49%. The Vodafone Group also reported its financial results: group revenue grew by 4% from €43.81 to €45.6 billion. Airtel Africa subscriber numbers grew by 8.7%. In Europe, Vodafone’s mobile customers grew by 1.5%. These two examples illustrate a simple point: mobile operators in Europe and Africa are at different stages of the growth curve. African operators do not need to be as focused on cost control compared to European operators because their subscriber base […]

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Uncapped data products – be careful what you wish for

Uganda’s parliament has directed the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) to open discussions with operators on making all data plans unlimited. On the surface, this idea is appealing: why should data packages have limits? But exclusively providing unlimited data packages means that the link between data usage and revenues is then broken. This means that data usage can increase enormously without any additional revenues for the telco. There are costs associated, especially in mobile, with providing data and by divorcing data usage from revenues, there is no way to fully recoup these costs. The consequences of breaking the link between usage […]

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Webinar on Digital Taxation in East Africa

Research ICT Solutions held a webinar on digital taxation in East Africa on Thursday the 21st of July. Nearly 50 participants attended a 2 hour discussion on the impact of digital services taxes, the potential impact of the OECD’s 2 pillar approach to taxation in the digital age and also introduced RIS’s Tax Impact Calculator for Africa. Brief case studies on the impact of digital taxes on Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania were presented and a panel discussion closed off the session. Our thanks to all who participated. You can find the slide deck here. And you can find a recording of […]

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Uganda imposes VAT on digital services

Uganda has joined most countries around the world and expanded VAT to include non-resident digital platforms. Effective 1 July 2022, VAT of 18% will be charged on electronic services like web hosting, software and streaming services. This means that when a customer in Uganda purchases any of these services from a company like Amazon or Meta, the company must charge VAT of 18% and submit this charge to the Ugandan Revenue Authority. Uganda joins many other countries that have expanded VAT to digital services such as Kenya and South Africa and most developed countries around the world. According to the […]

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Network quality vs. affordability

In June, RIS launched the Next Generation Internet Index (NGII), a tool to measure a country’s readiness for the metaverse. The tool is intended to be aspirational because the targets are difficult to achieve. But the tool is also relevant for today, as Vodacom South Africa’s recent press release shows. Vodacom claimed that it had the best quality network in South Africa based on data from Tutela. Of course, competitors like MTN, called this claim nonsense based on data from Ookla that showed that MTN had a considerably better network. However, it doesn’t really matter if one network is slightly […]

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Connectivity targets for 2030

The ITU released the Global Connectivity Report in early June 2022. The report lays out the connectivity targets for 2030. The report includes the usual internet penetration targets, but it also lays speed targets for fixed broadband and for schools. For schools, the minimum download speed per student is 50 kbit/s. The minimum speed for fixed broadband is 10 Mbit/s.  These are ambitious targets because the majority of people and schools that are not connected will be in difficult to reach places. Two notable business opportunities are from Starlink and Intelsat. Starlink is planning on launching in Mozambique and Nigeria […]

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Digital services tax in Tanzania

After months of rumours, Tanzania has announced a digital services tax (DST). The Minister of Finance, in the 2022/23 budget speech, announced a 2% tax on the revenues of non-resident digital platforms. No cost-benefit analysis has been publicly released. Nor are there any details on when the DST would be imposed, how it would be collected and what penalties would be incurred if digital platforms did not comply. In addition to the DST, the Minister also announced the removal of the VAT exemption for smartphones because it “didn’t lead to reduction of prices to final consumers rather benefited traders”. Unfortunately, […]

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NGII: Select case studies

Balancing Act has a great feature this week looking at the role of monopolies in the wholesale market and the impact this has on retail prices for several countries in Africa. We are going to build on that feature by providing some data from our Next Generation Internet Index (NGII). The principle behind the NGII is to measure a country’s progress towards the next generation Internet, or what is now commonly referred to as the metaverse. Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality will mean a more interactive and immersive experience. This requires high bandwidth and low latencies, but at […]

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Getting ready for the future: South Sudan

Building new fibre routes is an obvious way to speed up access to the Internet. But the gains always seem incremental – nearly all countries have at least one international fibre cable and sometimes many more. South Sudan is a great illustration of the impact of fibre compared to other forms of connectivity like satellite and microwave. In 2020, Liquid and Muya built two fibre cables from Juba to Uganda. The table shows that the impact was dramatic: between Q1 of 2019 and Q1 of 2022, latencies were reduced by 70% and download speeds increased by 238%. Of course, connectivity […]

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