3G mobile broadband services represent the vast majority of Internet connections
Ghana has been a pioneer in African telecommunications: It launched the first cellular mobile network in sub-Saharan Africa in 1992, it was among the first countries on the continent to be connected to the Internet and to introduce ADSL broadband services, and it led the way in market liberalisation and deregulation when it privatised Ghana Telecom (GT) as early as 1996. Since then, Ghana has become one of the continent’s most vibrant mobile markets with now six competing operators, including regional heavyweights such as MTN, Vodafone, Millicom (Tigo) and Zain which was taken over by Bharti Airtel of India in 2010.
The entry of Nigeria’s Globacom as the sixth mobile player in 2012 has delivered another boost to the sector. Subscriber growth, however, has come at the expense of the average revenue per user (ARPU) which has fallen below US$5 per month for some of the operators. While the voice market is approaching saturation at more than 90% penetration in mid-2012, enormous potential in both subscriber and ARPU terms exists for 3G mobile broadband services which already represent the vast majority of Internet connections in the country.
Internet user penetration was below 10% of the population until recently, but developments are now speeding up following the introduction of wireless and 3G mobile broadband technologies such as iBurst, WiMAX and HSPA. The arrival of three new international fibre links between 2010 and 2012 has ended the monopolistic pricing of international bandwidth. This, in combination with national fibre backbone networks that are being rolled out by various players, is revolutionising the country’s broadband market and paving the way for convergence of technologies and services.
Mobile penetration has broken the 90% barrier; Sixth mobile network and fourth international submarine fibre optic cable have launched; 3G mobile broadband services represent the vast majority of Internet connections.
Estimated market penetration rates in Ghana’s telecoms sector – end-2012 Market | Penetration rate Mobile | 97% Fixed | 1% Internet | 36% (Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)