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SAT-3 reinforces market monopolies in Africa - Study

09/08/2008 (APC) -- Media release

SAT-3 REINFORCES MARKET MONOPOLIES IN AFRICA – STUDY

Johannesburg, South Africa, May 15 2008 -- A study examining the impact the SAT-3 fibre optic submarine cable has had on telecommunications in four African countries has found that the potential of the cable has not been properly exploited.

Instead, ownership of the cable by telecoms incumbents in the countries researched has reinforced their market positions.

The study, conducted by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC), set out to analyse the effect ownership of the South Atlantic 3/West Africa Submarine Cable (SAT-3/WASC) has had on the communications markets in Angola, Cameroon, Ghana and Senegal. It focused on the ‘Africa section’ of the submarine cable – running along the west coast of Africa down to southern Africa – with a specific emphasis on access and cost.

Amongst other things, the study found that:

• The cost of internet access to consumers has decreased over time. However, this has not been to levels anticipated by the market. While the cost of international calls and international bandwidth has also decreased -both for SAT-3 and for the satellite alternative– this has also frustrated market expectations.

• The markets for internet and international services in each of the countries have experienced an increase in the number of legal and grey market operators providing services, and the ensuing competition has had a positive impact on reducing prices.

• While a review of the telecom regulation and laws of countries such as Angola and Senegal gives the impression that their telecom markets are (for the most part) fully liberalised, in reality, this is not the case. With the exception of Senegal’s incumbent Sonatel, none of the other signatories to SAT-3 studied as part of this research were privatised. These 100% government-owned entities often constitute a conflict of interest in the markets that they operate in and (usually) dominate, impeding sector reforms and constituting operational bottlenecks.

• In all the countries studied the SAT-3 signatory is the largest user of its capacity. In Cameroon, Camtel is estimated to use approximately 50% of Cameroon’s allocated capacity, which corresponds to more than 80% of all capacity used in the country. The bulk of the remaining capacity is used by only a handful of large companies that are connected directly to the cable.

• With the exception of Ghana’s incumbent Ghana Telecom, all other SAT-3 signatories studied in this research are legally the sole providers of international connectivity in their countries.

• This scenario, in most cases, constitutes a ‘reinforced monopoly’ – state-owned operators who are sole providers of international connectivity in un-competitive markets face little incentive to offer fair access and prices to other operators and consumers.

The study recommends fresh measures to liberalise the telecommunications markets in the four countries, with the specific aim of opening up access to SAT-3 to more operators, so that its real potential can be realized in Africa.

The study which consists of a briefing that synthesises the results of the four country studies from Angola, Cameroon, Ghana and Senegal, plus the full case studies, can be downloaded here.

The briefing will be translated into French and Portuguese shortly.

For more background information on SAT-3/WASC and opening up affordable bandwidth in Africa, visit Fibre for Africa.

ABOUT APC

The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international network of civil society organisations dedicated to empowering and supporting groups and individuals through the strategic use of information and communication technologies (ICTs), especially internet-related technologies. APC and its members in more than 30 countries pioneer practical and relevant uses of ICTs for civil society. APC is an international facilitator of civil society's engagement with ICTs and related concerns, in both policy and practice.

Our network of members and partners spans the globe, with presence in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Western, Central and Eastern Europe and North America. APC: http://www.apc.org

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

Dr Abi Jagun
Research Fellow
University of Strathclyde
40 George Street
Glasgow G1 1QE United Kingdom
Tel: +44.(0)141.548.3618
Fax: +44.(0)141.552.6686
Email: abi@apc.org

Date: 09/08/2008
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Source: APC

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