False msafiri 68 TECHNOLOGY MAKING THE CONNECTION R ight across Africa, the latest hi- tech wizardry continues to fuel massive growth in connectivity and overcome the barriers presented by the continent’s vast un- cabled spaces. Wireless technology, from Wi- Fi networks to 3G mobile signals, is finally opening communication lines to remote areas, and it’s cheaper than ever too. Africa currently has 260 million mobile phone users, and just 20 million landline subscribers. That 85% dominance is a perfect demonstration of wireless convenience where access to cabled connections is simply not an option. And that number is set to balloon in the next year, as improved mobile connection speeds begin to roll out across the continent. Internet analysts ComScore now say there are over 41 million internet users across Africa. That’s a whopping 28% increase in the last 12 months. But the potential for growth remains, since even those figures represent just 5% of the population being connected. In Europe, the average nation has a connected population of 40%. But the next 12 months will see rapid acceleration in Internet use across Africa. New WiMax technology is right around the corner, offering broadband connections direct to homes without cables, and at a distance of up to five miles. That means base stations can be placed further apart, making an infrastructure much easier to piece together over Africa’s sprawling spaces. The region also boasts the highest growth rate for mobile phone sales across the entire planet. For the past five years, the African mobile market has averaged a 65% increase year on year, putting it head and shoulders above the rest of the world. The technology is here. The audience is ready. Africa is poised to become an Internet superpower. The technology is here. The audience is ready. Africa is poised to become an internet superpower. There are few places where broadband is having a bigger impact than Africa, says James Holland in our guide to getting connected AFRICA:
False msafiri 69 LOOK OUT FOR: WIMAX The next-generation of Wi- Fi, WiMax offers slightly slower speeds, but can spread its SIGNALS up to five miles. That means less hassle finding a hotspot, and wider broadband coverage across large areas. It’s perfect for Africa, and will catapult online connections into even the most remote areas. Wi- Fi If you’ve got a laptop, you’re ready to connect using Wi- Fi. Unfortunate-ly, you’ll need to be within range of a hotspot, and they typically only reach 10 metres from the base station. That said, if you’re within range, Wi- Fi is incredibly fast. It’s also found in the latest mobile phones too, so if your handset has wireless features, you can check e- mail or surf the web at speed. EDGE/ GPRS If you’ve got a mobile, there’s a good chance it’s running on a 2G network. That’s bad news for connecting to the Internet, since it’s slow and will struggle to handle web pages or large e- mail attachments. However, if your network supports EDGE or GPRS, it’ll increase speeds to a bearable level, even using a 2G connec-tion. We’re not saying web pages will load in a jiffy, but they’ll be in your hand after just a couple of seconds wait. 3G The next generation of mobile networks is already here. If you have a 3G phone, it can use the mobile network to hop online. It’s much faster than 2G, and unlike Wi- Fi, there’s no need to be right next to the base station for a decent signal. The speed and reach of 3G networks is increasing all the time, but for seriously speedy access you’ll need HSDPA too. HSDPA If you bought a 3G phone in the last 12 months, chances are it already supports HSDPA. It’s the fastest way to get online using your mobile phone, although you’ll need to use a 3G network that supports it. The most advanced networks now use HSDPA to run at up to 7.2Mbps. That’s faster than most broadband landlines. By the end of the year, some networks claim they’ll have reached 42Mbps. That’s quick enough to download whole movies in minutes. SPEAK THE LINGO Connecting a continent as large as Africa needs more than one type of technology. Luckily, there are lots of options. Cut through the techno- babble and ‘ geek speak’ with our simple guide to the latest connection conventions.