Africa in 2015 has ~400M people with mobiles despite no signal where almost a third of the population live. Ericsson counts 170M smartphones in sub-Saharan Africa in 2015 and expects a remarkable 500M more in the next five years. 3G coverage in Q1 2016 is only 43% (GSMA) but increasing rapidly. The first map, from Afterfibre, very colorfully slows the emerging fiber networks. (Red are projected.) The third, from Paul Hamilton, has similar data but less color. It's easy to see the fibre desert in Central Africa. #2 is from the remarkable Steve Song, showing the undersea cables. Almost all have been built in the last five years. South Africa is served by five cables; Kenya and most of West Africa by three. Prices are a fraction of what satellite used to charge but in many places still very high. Larger versions below.
Hurricane's Expected Incredible Backhaul Prices to Joburg & Nairobi could kickstart Africa's Internet
Not quite as low as the $0.27/megabit price in Riga. Hurricane Electric, a major Internet backbone, is coming to Africa. Although they aren't announcing prices, I predict they will offer much less expensive backhaul/transit. Most of the continent suffers from brutally high, cartel-like prices for wholesale connections. If HE prices as I expect they will, that could easily reduce consumer Internet prices by 15% to 35%. In turn, that will allow tens of millions more to connect.
In 2012 at the WCIT, a dozen Africans told me the high cost of transit/backhaul was by far the most important international obstacle to bringing the Internet to more Africans. A friend of mine was quoted $70/megabit for a Gig-E in Lagos last year. The cost in most European or American cities would be between $0.50 and perhaps $4.00. The current high price of backhaul raises the cost of a robust broadband connection probably $10-20 over what it could be. Even a second-rate service with a low cap is probably $5 more expensive than necessary.
There is a real cost involved carrying data 6,000 miles undersea but that explains only a small part of the 50-1 difference in the price between London and most of Africa. Most coastal countries are now served by more than one undersea cable.
120M Chinese have fiber home connections, more than the entire rest of the world. That's actual connections (including businesses), not availability or homes passed. When I first saw that figure in Google translation from the Chinese, I thought it a program problem. But now the authoritative Point-Topic data confirms it. P-T counts 213M Chinese connected at the beginning of this year, a number confirmed by financial filings and government data.
The Chinese government decided a few years ago that a faster Internet was good for the country. They made it so, with the cooperation of government-controlled carriers.
Years away, while DOCSIS 3.1 can do an upstream gigabit today. If the wireless guys think they can go both upstream and downstream on the same frequency, why can't cable? Alcatel has already demonstrated a DSL full duplex prototype. Belal Hamzeh at CableLabs believes the answer is probably yes. (Blog below.) Cable worldwide is excited, as the comments below from Australia's NBN CTO Dennis Steiger, demonstrate.
Full duplex cable won't be delivered to most customers soon, even if things go well. "If all signs remain positive, the project will transition from an innovation effort into an R&D project, open to all interested participants," Hamzeh reports. I expect it will take months even to begin the research project and more time after that for the research to yield a reliable standard. Upgrading the equipment, including the subscriber boxes, will take additional years. We all know projects like this often take longer than hoped.
Meanwhile, Verizon is winning away customers with 50 and 100 megabit upstreams. BT has begun deploying 15M lines of G.fast, also capable of hundreds of megabits. AT&T is deploying 12M lines of fiber home or G.fast. France, Spain, Korea and Taiwan are moving rapidly to G.fast and fiber home.
"Added half a percent of the Internet's users each year over the past two decades." Iljitsch van Beijnum has captured the status in a great headline. There is no unifying force that implements Internet rules. Each of the network of networks takes its time.
While the world average is about 10%, Google's data finds the U.S. at 25%.
The Halo Effect: Announce you're offering a gig to a few thousand people and a million become more positive about your company. The pr is working well. AT&T discovered signups increased across 10X or even 100X more homes than they actually reached. At AT&T, ~5% have the option - and the large majority never will.
AT&T explains to Wall Street they believe 45-70 megabits is enough to compete with cable while teasing consumers with what's mostly a token rollout.
If so, my article that AT&T will use 400-700 megabit G.fast to five million is a mistake. AT&T's press release I just read (below) promises "Within 4 years, AT&T will offer its all-fiber Internet access service to at least 12.5 million customer locations, such as residences, home offices and very small businesses." It may well be that the pr people at AT&T don't understand the technology being used and much of the build will in fact be Fiber to the Basement and copper, probably G.fast, to the apartment. But if I may have an error, it's my job to issue a correction.
FT/Orange Spain going to 10M & 14M. Without much publicity, Spain has pulled far ahead of other large nations in fiber homes. The U.S., Italy and France have passed fewer than 25%, Germany and England less than 10%.