High Tariff of Internet Charge Affecting Coverage

Internet has had a profound impact on the world in the few decades that it has been around. One of the most remarkable progress of its history has been its development in Africa. According to Internet Africa Project, over 167 million of the a billion people in Africa have access to the internet and connectivity is in the rise so is the price.

At present, the pricing of leased lines by the paid time offs (PTOs) is a fundamental part of the overall cost of accessing the internet. Internet Access Providers (IAPs) need to lease lines from PTOs to connect their facilities to internet backbone supplier networks.

Most African countries installed their first internet gateway through satellite links. The continent relies on satellites and Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) earth stations for most of its connectivity. This results in high prices. Intelsat, the world’s largest commercial satellite service provider, provides full coverage in Africa. Thuraya, which has Middle East and North African telecommunications and investment companies as shareholders, gives coverage to North and Central Africa. Moves are being made in west, east and southern Africa to increase the international networks.

Ethiopia is connected to the international internet via satellite, a fiber-optic cable that passes through Sudan and connects to its international gateway, and the SEACOM cable that connects through Djibouti to an international undersea cable. All connections to the international internet are completely centralized to Ethio Telecom.

Currently, South and East African countries including Ethiopia rely on satellites and has just 0.07 % of the world’s international bandwidth capacity. In 2015, access to ICTs in Ethiopia remained limited, hampered by slow speeds and the state’s grip on the telecom sector. According to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), internet penetration stood at a mere 3 % in 2014, up from just 2 % in 2013. Only 0.5 % of the population had access to fixed-broadband connections, increasing from 0.25 % in 2013.

However Ethiopians had more access to mobile phone services, with mobile phone penetration rates increasing from 27 % in 2013 to 32 % in 2014. Though such access rates still lag behind an estimated regional average of 74 %, cell phone ownership is much more common especially in urban areas. Although access to the internet through mobile phones increased slightly in the past year, pricey mobile data packages still posed a significant financial challenge to the majority of the public. As of mid-2015, monthly packages cost between $14 and $150 for 1 to 30 GB of 3G mobile services.

The combined cost of purchasing a computer, setting up an internet connection, and paying usage charges makes internet access expensive in Ethiopia. Even if access by mobile internet is increasing, the majority of internet users still rely on cybercafés to log online paying $0.25 to $0.35 for an hour of access. Because of the scarcity of internet cafes outside the capital Addis Ababa, rates in rural cybercafés are more expensive.

“Internet in Ethiopia has come a long way not only in connecting people across the universe, but also using it for satellite-based distance education and developments of ICT parks and information and communications technology. Now is the time for Ethiopia to offer service affordably to enhance coverage around Ethiopia.” Alexander Burtenshaw, Country Manager of Jovago Ethiopia said.

According to May 2015 data from Akamai’s “State of the Internet” report, Ethiopia has an average connection speed of 1.8 Megabytes Per Second (Mbps); an encouraging figure compared to the global average of 3.9 Mbps.

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