|Topic:||Broadband brings the promise of prosperity|
|Title:||Vice President of Sales|
|Organisation:||RAD Data Communications|
Noam Dor is Vice President of Sales for Africa and Middle East for RAD Data Communications. In this position, he is responsible for the company’s sales team in these regions. Mr Dor has been employed since 1990 by RAD, an award-winning global manufacturer of access and backhaul solutions for mobile and fixed line carriers, service providers, enterprises, government agencies, transportation systems, and public utilities.
Noam Dor studied at the Université de Liège in Belgium.
Fibre-optics, Ethernet, mobile access, Internet and Cloud services have all come together to realize the potential of broadband. A Broadband service is measured by accessibility, reachability and capacity. The accessibility in the region is going mobile, skipping the landline age. Reachability to remote villages is still an issue but urban rollout is easier with less legacy infrastructure and building density to hinder progress. Capacity for dependable services is all important in this region, where the internet is the essential means of doing business via mobile transactions, getting paid by mobile money or receiving mobile Internet health support. Broadband is a crucial lifeline in Africa, not just a nice-to-have technology.
Sub-Saharan Africa is poised to capitalise on the widespread growth of fibre connectivity and high speed wireless and mobile technologies, which will bring broadband to more and more African businesses, creating tremendous opportunities for accelerated development. This is also true in other regions of Africa and the Middle East, as the delivery of these advanced technologies offers the hope of ever-broadening prosperity.
Broadband technologies may make it possible for individuals to do business locally, regionally, or around the world. It may open the door to intra- and international communication, overcoming geographical and other barriers to cooperation and commerce.
The precise benefits that broadband communications technologies can bring to the nations of Africa and the Middle East will vary widely, depending often on the politics and the cultures of particular countries. Presuming that a nation pursues a communications infrastructure that is more open and available, the next question is how to implement broadband communications in a way that delivers the greatest benefits to the greatest number of businesses and individuals.
In nations where there has traditionally been little communications infrastructure, moving to broadband communications is less restrained by legacy technologies and the equipment in place. For such nations, the slate is blank, and it can move more freely in any direction.
Accessibility, reach, and capacity
Essential to any broadband communications infrastructure are three elements: its accessibility, its reach, and its capacity. Accessibility requires mobility for data and voice communications. The traditional landline served people well for a century, but now, being able to communicate anywhere is as critical in less-developed nations as it is in more developed and advanced countries.
Reach, of course, is dependent on infrastructure. A nation must be able to extend its communications network to as many population centres and clusters as possible. While a concentration of broadband communications resources in the capital city is understandable and necessary, the smaller cities and towns, and even villages where possible, need such resources as well. That is, if the infrastructure is ever going to be able to bring the benefits of technology to as many citizens as possible.
Finally, capacity is critical to a broadband infrastructure. Essentially, that means a core network based on fibre-optic cable. No other medium can offer the capacity that fibre can, and extending it wherever possible will assure that the infrastructure can evolve to even more advanced communications technologies in the future. The geography of developing nations in Africa and the Middle East often makes it much easier to deploy fibre across these countries than it does to install it in the urban areas of advanced nations, where the transportation and civic infrastructure, as well as existing building density, pose challenges to deploying new fibre. Thus a fibre core network, reaching as many areas of a nation as possible, is a solid foundation. Upon that foundation is built a structure of mobility, allowing individuals to operate their computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices without needing wires.
Fibre bringing vast capacity
We are already seeing this in many regions of Africa, for instance. There, coastal cities are being connected by high-capacity fibre-optic undersea cables. In turn, countries with access to these cables are then extending that capacity themselves, with fibre to main cities and very often to their interiors. In most countries, the main users of the higher capacity are high-profile businesses such as mining companies, the oil industry, banks, tourism, and government. However, it is inevitable that this use will spread to industries of all kinds and to consumers as well.
Telecoms research company Analysys Mason recently predicted that retail telecoms revenue in sub-Saharan Africa will grow at a compound annual growth rate of ten per cent through 2016. Most of that revenue growth will be attributable to mobile voice services, due to the characteristics of telecoms in the region. The Analysys Mason report also predicted that the number of broadband connections in sub-Saharan Africa will increase to 50 million by 2016, more than five times as many as in 2010. While that is a tremendous growth rate, the 2016 projection will still represent a penetration rate of only about five per cent of the population.
There is no reason to expect that Africa and the Middle East will not see the same types of trends in broadband communications adoption that other countries have seen. As more people are exposed to high-capacity advanced communications in their work, they come to desire and even expect a similar level of performance in their off-the-job usage of technology. In today’s advanced societies, of course, that scenario has been turned on its head by the advances in consumer technologies. Now, those consumer technologies, such as social media, video, smartphone or tablet applications, are very often driving business uses.
Still, in the foreseeable future for developing nations, it will most likely be the exposure to leading edge technologies gained in the business environment that drives the interest and demand down to smaller businesses and consumers. While there may not be extensive exposure to technologies among the populations of some of these countries, there are a great number of technology-savvy individuals that will likely serve as a driving force for wider availability of broadband communications. These individuals have had the advantage of exposure through the many Internet cafes that can be found in major cities throughout Africa, for example.
Ethernet and the Cloud
Moving down a level, it is clear that two technologies will play key roles in how broadband communications is used by, and benefits, businesses and individuals in developing nations. Those two technologies are Ethernet data transport and the cloud, or the use of remote resources to provide computing and applications functions.
Ethernet, even though it is more than 40 years old, has proven to be an incredibly versatile technology. It provides a common means of communicating information in a way that most of us never realised. Just as we don’t pay much attention to how electricity is generated and delivered – we simply flip the switch and enjoy the advantages it brings us – we don’t notice how the data, voice, and video information is delivered to us. Ethernet is the how.
Service providers in Africa, for instance, are joining their counterparts across the world in migrating to Ethernet transport. They are doing this whether they are delivering their services over fibre, or an existing copper-wired infrastructure, or via mobile technologies. There are clear advantages for the providers and for their customers, who can enjoy greater capacity, better performance and greater reliability in all of their communications.
The cloud – originally called ‘cloud computing’ but it has come to be much more than that – is another key technology for a developing economy. Because applications and computing resources are hosted remotely by cloud service providers, users need only a high-capacity and reliable Internet connection to take advantage of these resources. For example, a startup company in an African nation could leverage separate payroll, sales, human resources, and industry-specific applications, from various cloud service providers.
Without the availability of cloud services, the company would have to purchase the equipment to operate these applications internally, making the initial cost of that equipment a barrier to launching the business. Because the cloud services model is a pay-as-you-go approach with a monthly subscription fee, the capital expense barrier is removed and companies can go into business with one less hurdle to surmount.
The essential Internet
Use of the cloud makes broadband Internet access an absolute requirement. The benefit that the cloud offers in reducing capital equipment costs represents a trade-off in the sense that the company is then completely dependent on being able to access those resources and applications whenever, and often wherever, they need them. This elevates broadband communications from a nice-to-have technology to an indisputable must-have technology.
The same can be said of mobile technology. Users in developing nations are even more likely than those in developed nations to use mobile devices, such as tablets as their main computing and communications devices. Because tablets are better optimised for Internet (and cloud) access than they are for traditional applications, reliable wireless networks are critical to the new computing and communications environment.
There are clear signs that forward-looking African and Middle East nations are moving in the right direction when it comes to enabling a broadband communications infrastructure that will enhance commerce and spread prosperity. Several nations are deploying fibre liberally, and the number of service providers offering Ethernet services is climbing rapidly. There is widespread recognition of the importance of a robust and dependable mobile infrastructure. All these trends point to the unfolding of the promise of broadband communications in bridging the gaps between peoples, opening the door to social, cultural, and financial progress, and creating the opportunity for the widest possible prosperity for all.