According to GSMA, the end of 2017 saw the number of global mobile subscribers up to 5 billion. Over 60% of these subscribe to mobile internet services.
With a rapid increase in smartphone adoption as a result of lower device costs, there is further access to 3G/4G mobile broadband networks and services across Sub-Saharan Africa.
While these statistics indicate a steady growth in the numbers, GSMA’s Mobile Connectivity Index highlights that 4 billion people are still offline. This can be attributed to the tough economic climate in the region. The cost of building and operating mobile infrastructure in rural areas is much more expensive compared to the urban ones.
As mobile operators seek to grow their coverage and subscriber base in these remote areas, they struggle to identify the economically feasible locations. Which implies that they eventually lose large sums of money while producing fewer investment returns over time.
It is on the basis of this that GSMA is launching Mobile Coverage Maps. A tool designed to allow mobile operators to easily estimate the precise location and size of uncovered populations.
The mapping tool currently hosts Nigeria and Tanzania based on the insights of Mobile Connectivity Index (MCI). An index which measures the performance of various countries against key enablers. These include; infrastructure, affordability, consumer readiness, and content and services.
It also shows that infrastructure is the lowest scoring enabler for both countries. Further countries are expected to be added over the coming months.
How useful are Mobile Coverage Maps?
The portal provides detail to population settlements and existing mobile coverage. It is designed to support the players in the deployment of connectivity solutions to the underserved.
In addition, to provide coverage insights on key points of interests such as schools, hospitals, and refugee camps.
Also Read: Mobile subscriber growth in Sub-Saharan Africa has slowed, GSMA report
These maps should allow users to gain an accurate and complete picture of the mobile coverage by 2G, 3G, and 4G mobile technologies. Operators should as well be in the position to search for and estimate the population living in uncovered settlements.
Furthermore, the maps should help stakeholders that rely on mobile connectivity to strategically target their activity when looking out for locations with existing coverage.
Given the numerous ways in which organizations are using mobile technology to improve lives, the tool should impact significantly on their social growth.
As GSMA states, reliable population mobile coverage data is vital to identify who is covered and who is not. It is required for planning and financing network deployment.
"It is indispensable to determine how and where mobile technologies can be leveraged to deliver services. This is the starting point for enabling the digital economy."
Likewise, the tool will benefit developers that aim for last mile service delivery and distribution to remote areas. This is precisely companies such as solar energy companies as well as telecom companies. Not to forget governments, NGOs, and private companies.
As of December 2017, the subscriber base in the region totaled 444 million, about 9% of subscribers globally. GSMA predicts an increase in Sub-Saharan Africa’s population mobile subscription by 2025. This is in the latest edition of the GSMA’s Mobile Economy report series.
The regional subscriber base is expected to grow up to 634 million. The penetration rate is forecast to reach 50% by the end of 2023, and 52% by 2025.