According to recent research by Informa, 20% of African Internet traffic will be carried over mobile networks by 2015. Apparently, the equivalent figure in the rest of the world is 3%. This is going to place increasing strain on local mobile networks, particularly as consumers have a huge appetite for content that requires faster access rates. Essentially, the richer the content experience, the more demand we can expect to see.
Of course, the issue of content provision, to which Informa draws attention, is one of the problems that need to be solved. Evidently, there is a lack of local content, so the creation of innovative local content is a must, but so too is a consistent user experience.
It’s also not hard to imagine that the forecast is actually an under-estimate: after all, Cisco consistently updates its annual report with more bullish estimates, based on data it collects. Regardless of content provision, demand is likely to outstrip network capacity rollouts.
That’s why it’s essential to also consider how the user experience can be optimised. Already, Policy Control solutions are being deployed in African networks, reported to be somewhat ahead of the curve in this regard, but the logical extension to this is the deployment of solutions that allow user experience to be optimised directly on the device.
If operators can combine visibility and control of user traffic with policy decisions to optimise the user experience, it will surely help alleviate some of the pain associated with this dramatic growth and allow network rollout to be managed in a more graceful fashion. And then, even if forecasts don’t prove to be reliable (and of course, this is the subject of some debate), operators can still be in a position to optimise the user experience according to their policies and individual user preferences, driven by user demand and increased availability of low-cost smartphone devices.