|Topic:||Broadband access in Cameroon|
|Author:||Maïgari Bello Bouba|
|Title:||Minister of State, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications|
|Organisation:||Republic of Cameroon|
Maïgari Bello Bouba is the Minister of State, Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, of the Republic of Cameroon. In his long and distinguished career he has served his country as Prime Minister, Minister of the Economy and Planning, as a two-term elected Member of Parliament, as Minister of State in charge of Industry and Commerce, as Assistant Secretary General of the Presidency with the rank of Minister, as Secretary General of the Ministry of the Armed Forces, and as Executive Officer of the Presidency of the Republic. Minister Maïgari Bello Bouba began his career as the Assistant District Officer of the District of Poli (North of Cameroon). He has been honoured by Cameroon as an Officer of the National Order of Value and by France as a High Ranking Officer of the Legion of Honour. His Excellency, Maïgari Bello Bouba, graduated with a Diploma in Public Management from the National School of Administration and Magistracy, ENAM, of Yaounde, Cameroon and a Diploma from the International Institute of Public Administration, IIAP, Paris, France.
In Cameroon today, public telecommunications networks are still narrowband and much is needed to foster ICT usage and build the countryís broadband telecommunications network and access infrastructures. The incumbent operator with its monopoly of fixed telephony services wants to put in place a nationwide optical fibre infrastructure, and mobile operators are expected to provide countrywide 3G wireless broadband access shortly. The government has established a number of specific goals to fully connect the country to modern broadband services by 2015.
It is too early yet to assess the deployment of broadband access technologies such as xDSL, WiFi, WiMAX and other wireless systems in Cameroon. The development of highspeed data networks using WiFi and WiMAX technologies here is at an embryonic stage. The networks are mainly in Douala and YaoundÈ, because of the international connections available there. These include the 2.5 Gigabits per second high capacity connection to global data networks provided by the SAT-3 landing point in Douala, and the optical fibre along the Chad-Cameroon pipeline. The dynamism of the local mobile telephony operators and Internet access providers, IAPs, in Douala and YaoundÈ also make them the most appropriate places to gain experience. Unfortunately, appropriate legislative, regulatory, judiciary and institutional frameworks do not yet support the inevitable migration to high-speed data networks. Nowadays, many countries compete to attract private investors, but only those with qualified human resources and appropriate telecommunications, ICT infrastructures and networks emerge as winners. Broadband telecommunications infrastructures and highspeed data networks constitute the foundation of the Information Society and global economy. Affordable access to high-speed data networks and services improves: ï Competitiveness of the country and of its private enterprise; ï Enterprise productivity; ï Social services by providing access to e-appl ications such as e-Education and e-Health; ï Transactions between citizens and the government, G2C, on the one hand and between enterprises and the government, G2E, on the other; and; ï The productivity of the public administrations and institutions, G2G. The competition introduced in the mobile telephony market in the late í90s has, to a great extent, solved the problem of financing the development of narrowband telecommunications infrastructures and networks for voice and low rate data services, in urban regions and other commercially attractive zones. Unfortunately, most rural areas and remote zones – generally not considered to be commercially attractive by private investors – are not connected to the terrestrial public telephony networks. High-speed public data networks are also lacking. Furthermore, the difficulties encountered finding investors for our countryís telecommunications and ICT sector are in most cases due not only to doubts about the potential of this sector vital to the growth of our country but also to our legislative, regulatory and judicial frameworks, which do not yet provide an attractive environment. The government and its partners cannot build a fully inclusive information society with differing levels of ICT service in each region. The big cities are well connected but the rest of the country has no access to the high-speed Internet necessary to participate effectively in the new global economy. It is from this perspective that the government and private sector, taking into account international, national and technological trends, have to work together to create the appropriate fixed and wireless broadband transport and access infrastructures throughout the country. International trends In the new economy, high-speed data networks play a preponderant role. Throughout the world, we see that public administrations and institutions, and companies of all sizes are almost all moving towards the digitalisation of their transactions. Digitalisation, the use of information technology, increasingly encompasses almost everything most organisations do today, from the design of products to the finances, sales, marketing, logistics, production and management of resources. The high-speed Internet, which is nowadays one of the main driving forces of economic productivity and development, depends on the availability of wired and wireless broadband telecommunications based ICT infrastructures. National trends The liberalisation of Cameroonís telecommunications market began in 1998. The liberalisation aims, among other things, to bring about the balanced development of telecommunications infrastructures, networks and services throughout Cameroonís national territory. This essential reform has already made voice telephony service available to more than ten million users. In spite of many encouraging results, notably the increase in the turnover of the sector from around 100 billions CFA francs in 1999 to around 300 billion in 2006, and thousands of direct and indirect jobs created, it appears that much still remains to be done; in particular, facilities for access to high-speed Internet need to be made available everywhere in the country, including rural and geographically isolated areas. Overall, it is clear that, since Cameroonís public telecommunications networks are still predominantly narrowband, much remains to be done to build a modern, adequate and pervasive broadband telecommunications ICT transport and access infrastructure in the country. Briefly, there are three main problems: ï The mediocre quality of fixed telephony and broadcasting – radio and television – services; ï The slow roll-out of terrestrial and mobile telephony network coverage throughout the country; and, ï The lack of broadband telecommunications and ICT infrastructure in general in almost every region of the country. A detailed analysis of these problems reveals three fundamental causes: ï Most of the long-distance transmission facilities for fixed telephony and broadcasting services are obsolete; ï The almost exclusive concentration of mobile operators on providing service in commercially attractive regions; and, ï The absence of a public broadband telecommunications transport infrastructure with open access for all public telecommunications operators. Technological trends Nowadays, Internet Protocol, IP, networks are rapidly gaining ground in the world. In most countries, multimedia services and voice over IP, VoIP, are rapidly replacing narrowband data services and ëplain old telephone servicesí, POTS. The new services depend upon broadband transport infrastructure and broadband access network technologies including xDSL, optical fibre and wireless broadband systems such as WiFi, WiMAX, satellite, and the like. More opportunities In the context outlined above, the Government of Cameroonís vision is to have the country entirely connected by the year 2015; this means that every household and public or private organization, everywhere in the country, will be able to access high speed Internet services at any time and at an affordable price. To this end, the government intends to achieve four general objectives by December 2015: ï Create an attractive and enabling environment for private investors to encourage increased ICT usage; ï Update the countryís institutional framework to facilitate the rapid establishment of an extensive broadband telecommunications infrastructure; ï Ensure complete coverage of the national territory by public high-speed telecommunications networks; and, ï Stimulate the adoption of the high-speed data services by public administrations and institutions, by firms and by households, taking into account the significant advantages that can be derived from this technology. Some specific targets are to be reached before 2012: 1) Update telecommunications and ICT legislation and regulations taking into account convergence before December 2007; 2) Ensure the availability of the high-speed data services at all provincial headquarters before the end of December 2009; 3) Ensure the availability of the high-speed data services at all divisional headquarters before the end of December 2011; 4) Provide terrestrial mobile telephone network and service coverage for at least 50 per cent of Cameroonís territory and 98 per cent of its population before the end of December 2011; 5) Provide every Ministry with a high-speed link to the Internet of at least two megabits per second before the end of December 2009; 6) Provide every university with a high speed connection to the Internet of at least 30 megabits per second before the end of December 2009; 7) Provide every state primary school and secondary school with a two megabits per second Internet connection; and, 8) Before December 2007, establish a joint venture company to deploy, maintain and operate a national optical fibre infrastructure with open and equitable access to all telecommunication and ICT service providers. Public private partnership and initiatives The private sector is of key importance for the development of broadband telecommunication infrastructures and high-speed data networks in Cameroon. Furthermore, the government recognizes that public policies can contribute to the efficient functioning of the market by acting on both supply and demand to create a virtuous circle in which the development of content and improved services is facilitated by the deployment of broadband infrastructure and networks and vice versa. In this context, the main initiatives contemplated relate to the need to accelerate broadband data network and infrastructure deployment and to stimulate ICT usage. This is in good part driven by the telecommunication and ICT facilities needed by the public sector to provide educational, health, administrative services to the public. The use of these technologies by administrations, schools, clinics and companies will be fostered by special government measures and incentives.