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Omdia View: March 2024

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The failure of four out of the five submarine cables deployed on the western shore of Africa in March 2024 led to a massive Internet outage across several countries. The outage fueled demand for satellite broadband, with SpaceX's Starlink becoming increasingly popular.

However, Starlink's expansion drive in Africa continues to face regulatory challenges across the continent with only a handful of countries having awarded operating licenses.

Meanwhile, Ooredoo Group partnered with MediaKind, a renowned provider of OTT streaming solutions, to launch Go Play Market, an OTT offering across six key markets, including Oman, Kuwait, Iraq, Tunisia, Algeria and the Maldives.

In Somalia, Hormuud Telecom announced the launch of commercial 5G services in several locations in the country while offering its subscribers monthly unlimited 5G data plans for $20.

Here are Omdia's top telecoms highlights for March 2024 across the Middle East and Africa.

Massive Internet outage raises concerns about international connectivity options in Africa

— by Thecla Mbongue, Omdia research manager for the Middle East and Africa.

On March 14, 2024, four out of the five submarine cables deployed on the western shore of Africa went down at the same time. This caused a massive Internet outage across the continent. The cables impacted were Africa Coast to Europe (ACE), MainOne, and South Atlantic Telecommunications 3/West Africa Submarine Cable (SAT-3/WACS).

ACE has landing points in 19 African countries, WACS in 11, SAT-3 in nine, and Main One in three.

The disruptions impacted coastal countries directly connected to the cables, but also landlocked countries connected to the cables through terrestrial network extensions.

The outage lasted about two days in most of the places impacted, but it took almost a week to get service restored to an acceptable standard.

This incident raises concerns about the international connectivity options in Africa. Although the chance of nearly all cables breaking down at the same time is extremely limited, such a scenario can occur.

The telcos were caught off guard and were apparently not well enough prepared to rapidly solve the issue.

The situation led to an increased demand for satellite broadband services, including Starlink, but this is only an option for well-off customers because kits are sold for a minimum of US$300.

In the meantime, shifting to satellite technology to replace submarine cables is not under consideration because satellites cannot handle the huge data flow that is currently carried by submarine cables.

Demand for Starlink grows, but regulatory hurdles frustrate its expansion

— by Thecla Mbongue, Omdia research manager for the Middle East and Africa.

The mid-March 2024 Internet outage in Africa increased demand for satellite broadband services on the continent.

Starlink, on the back of its founder's notoriety, has become a popular satellite broadband brand, but as of the first quarter of 2024 the service was only authorized in nine African markets: Eswatini, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Zambia.

Starlink is yet to disclose the number of kits sold, but it is expected that the service will remain restricted to the higher-end segments because the price of kit, excluding accessories and shipping, starts at $400 when bought directly online from Starlink. Monthly fees are around $30.

In key market Nigeria, Starlink increased the kit fees in early March 2024 from $280 to $640.

Starlink's popularity in Africa is growing, but it is still not licensed to operate in many African countries.   (Source: Starlink website).
Starlink's popularity in Africa is growing, but it is still not licensed to operate in many African countries.
(Source: Starlink website).

Starlink is also being used in other African markets despite the lack of authorization. This is the case in South Africa, Ghana, Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon, where unauthorized distributors resell kits.

This led to regulators warning users not to connect to unlicensed services, notably just after the mid-March outage.

In February 2024, Starlink itself acted in South Africa and blocked hundreds of kits. The South African users were supplied from neighboring Mozambique.

According to Omdia, satellite broadband usage represented 0.5% of over 41 million fixed broadband subscriptions in Africa in 2023. Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and South Africa are the largest satellite broadband markets.

Ooredoo Group ventures into OTT streaming with the launch of Go Play Market

— by Walaa Ibrahim, Omdia senior analyst for the Middle East and North Africa Service Provider Markets.

Ooredoo Group, a leading telecommunications provider in the region, expanded its services into the over-the-top (OTT) streaming industry by introducing Go Play Market on March 2, 2024.

The launch signifies Ooredoo's strategic move to diversify beyond traditional telecom services, aiming to cater to the evolving entertainment needs of consumers in the region.

Collaborating with MediaKind, a renowned provider of OTT streaming solutions, and utilizing Microsoft Azure's infrastructure, Ooredoo seeks to ensure a seamless experience for its users.

Go Play Market has been introduced in six key markets: Oman, Kuwait, Iraq, Tunisia, Algeria and the Maldives.

Although primarily targeting Ooredoo customers, the platform is also accessible to non-Ooredoo subscribers, with the intention of reaching a broader audience base.

The platform offers a diverse range of content, including live TV channels spanning news, entertainment, sports and lifestyle, as well as a video-on-demand (VOD) library featuring movies and series. Go Play Market also plans to produce original shows and exclusive content tailored to regional preferences.

Omdia asserts that Ooredoo's entry into the OTT space reflects the changing landscape of entertainment consumption, driven by increasing digitalization and consumer demand. By introducing Go Play Market, Ooredoo aims to offer a compelling alternative for viewers in the region and contribute to the ongoing evolution of the entertainment industry.

Hormuud Telecom launches commercial 5G services in Somalia

— by Danson Njue, Omdia senior research analyst, Africa markets.

Hormuud Telecom, a leading converged telecommunication services provider in Somalia, launched a commercial 5G network across several cities and towns in the country, including Mogadishu, Kismayo, Galkayo, Baidoa, Dhusamareeb, Beledwayne, Afgoye, Merca and Dhobley.

Subscribers will be able to access unlimited 5G data plans for $20 per month, with 4G subscribers enjoying free upgrades to the 5G service.

According to Hormuud, up to 70% of Somalia's population has access to 4G connectivity and there are plans to expand this to 88% in urban areas and 70% in rural areas.

However, 5G network coverage is at 81% across the locations where the commercial services have been launched. The operator believes that the 5G connectivity will support the deployment of critical digital services, including Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.

You can find Omdia's full Middle East & Africa News Digest here.

For more information about Omdia's consulting capabilities, contact them directly at [email protected] or reach out to the Omdia analysts by emailing [email protected].

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*Top image source: Informa Tech.

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