Mobile internet services in Africa will expand to compensate for the continent's lack of fixed-line infrastructure, according to research by Frost & Sullivan.
The report attributes the boost in demand to a reduction in handset costs and internet service prices, together with improved transmission speeds.
Africa's demand for mobile internet access is growing quickly, and operators are anticipating growth of between 40 and 50 per cent between 2006 and 2009.
Furthermore, the researchers see the steady growth in cellular services and the migration from 2G to 3G technologies as a perfect platform for the deployment of mobile internet services.
"The poor state of fixed-line infrastructure is creating the potential for the African mobile internet market to boom," said Spiwe Chireka, a research analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
"Mobile internet has emerged as the solution to the continent's last-mile connectivity problem."
Environmental conditions mean that mobile internet is significantly more cost-effective to deploy than fixed-line services. It is also much cheaper and easier for users to acquire, covers a larger area and allows access while on the move.
However, the report highlights several hurdles that still impede the adoption of mobile data services across Africa.
The high cost of mobile internet compatible handsets, coupled with the pricing structure, remains a significant challenge, while the majority of Africa's population still finds these services too expensive.
Furthermore, poor infrastructure development in some countries makes it difficult for some operators to deploy mobile internet services because of a lack of reliable electricity and inadequate road networks.
"Mobile ISPs need to form partnerships with cellular companies as well as technology and infrastructure providers to see how best they can provide cheaper or more affordable handsets that will provide good quality service," explained Chireka.
"They should also form partnerships with governments across Africa and work out investment plans to improve telecoms infrastructures so that deployment of such services is not limited."
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