As mobile internet speeds increase, Africans are spending more time streaming

Around 2015, when video-on-demand services were introduced to the Kenyan mobile market (fiber to the home was already a ‘thing’ in Kenya’s urban centers in the late 2000s), a number of providers have partnered with mobile carriers to optimize bandwidth for faster download speeds.

However, many subscribers would from time to time be forced to move closer to hotspots, less crowded places, or wait until dark when traffic was low to watch their favorite movies or TV shows on their smartphones, thanks to patchy and highly variable internet connectivity. speeds in the country.

“Meanwhile, it took a long time for online videos to start playing, they also stopped several times during playback, and their picture qualities weren’t as clear,” Justus Ontita recalled, a Kenyan Netflix subscriber and aspiring gospel artist in an interview with bird.

Today, many people across Africa can watch their favorite movies and TV shows seamlessly on YouTube and other streaming apps like Netflix without worrying too much about buffers. They can also listen to their favorite songs on platforms like Boomplay and Spotify, whether in a Wi-Fi zone or via mobile data.

“Things have changed a lot over the years. It’s now easier and more affordable for up-and-coming musicians like me to upload videos and stream them to many streaming platforms that help reach global audiences,” Ontita said.

Increased investment in undersea cables by governments and private players, the proliferation of mobile and related services, and rapid growth in demand are helping to increase internet speeds on the continent.

The shift of work and leisure online due to the Covid-19 outbreak has further boosted demand.

Remote meetings and business calls on services like Zoom require at least 1.5 megabits per second (Mbps) for individuals to make good-quality group video calls, while the recommended speed for ultra-high streaming definition (UHD) on Netflix is ​​15 Mbps (5 Mbps for HD).

For mobile games – also growing rapidly on the continent – speeds between 3 and 5 Mbps are considered fast enough for a seamless experience (although latency – the speed required for data to be transferred between its source of origin and destination – is also essential for Internet games, especially group games).

A 2021 study commissioned by Newzoo, a game analytics company, and Carry1st, a South African gaming platform, shows that the number of gamers in sub-Saharan Africa has increased to 186 million, with the majority of gamers (95%) using mobile phones for playing.

Jay Shapiro, managing director of Nairobi-based Usiku Games, said in an interview that “data lite” two-dimensional (2D) casual games like Candy Crush, Wordle and Angry Birds make up the majority of what is played in Africa, but for these, internet speed is not a big issue.

“For these games, connectivity is very important, but the speed of that connectivity is not critical. These are so dominant because Africa is a mobile-centric continent,” Shapiro said.

There is also a minority population of Africans who play data-intensive games where speed matters. According to Shapiro, these games will increase as people acquire more powerful devices and connect to high-speed Internet.

“In Kenya we have great connectivity with solid 4G speeds covering almost the whole country. There is great pressure for 5G networks to roll out now – much faster here than in the West due to our relationship with the China, Huawei – so things will only get better,” Shapiro said.

Kenya is now among 13 African countries with an average mobile internet speed above 25 Mbps.

According to the latest Global Index speed test by Ookla, a mobile and broadband network intelligence company, South Africa has the fastest average mobile internet speed in Africa at 58.55 Mbps.

Mauritius (48 Mbps) and Morocco (45.24 Mbps) were ranked second and third respectively in Africa, enabling their mobile audiences to stream video content.

Togo (43.31Mbps), Botswana (35.81Mbps), Tunisia (34.27Mbps), Ethiopia (34.15Mbps), Angola (33.28Mbps), Egypt (29.15Mbps) and Mozambique (28.81Mbps ) complete the list of the 10 countries with the fastest mobile internet speeds in Africa.

The global average download speed for mobile is 74.87 Mbps, which means that the top performers in Africa are still lagging behind the rest of the world. However, there are indications that mobile internet speeds on the continent are increasing faster than elsewhere.

A glaring omission from the top 10 was Africa’s largest mobile market, Nigeria. The continent’s top economy has seen its average mobile speed drop from 22.73 Mbps in April 2021 to 25.99 Mbps currently, not enough to enter the upper tier and a potential bottleneck in key sectors of the world. economy, such as its booming entertainment sector.

Not all tests are equal either.

“Kano showed the fastest median mobile download speed among Nigeria’s most populous cities during the first quarter of 2022 at 19.31 Mbps,” according to Speed ​​Test Global Index.

According to Ookla, most African countries have seen an improvement in speeds, with Mauritius registering the largest margin increase, almost doubling the average mobile speed (from 25.14 Mbps in April 2021) and pushing it up 17 positions in the rankings. global.

Ethiopia, Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Somalia all saw their global rankings jump by at least six positions thanks to increased mobile internet speeds.

These increased speeds make users spend more time streaming content.

Online video analytics company, Conviva, showed in its State of Streaming Q3 2021 report that Africa saw the largest increase in watch time – at 273% – compared to an increase global average of 21%, in terms of year-over-year growth.

Most viewing time was spent on large screens (mostly smart TVs) at 57%, with desktop viewing at 19% and mobile viewing at 18%.

“Buffering – when video pauses during playback so it can reload – has improved across the board, with Africa reaping the most benefit, down 78%,” according to the report.

While Africa’s total minutes per game (13.21) was the second lowest after Asia (10.74), the continent saw the biggest increase in total minutes per game – at 153% .

Rolling out fiber optics to more schools through collaborative efforts between governments and non-governmental organizations and putting in place regulations that allow satellite internet providers like Starlink to operate in markets like Kenya were seen as ways to boost access to high-speed internet. in remote parts of the continent.

Shapiro also called for a greater push for high-speed mobile internet penetration.

“The adoption of 5G fixed wireless by telcos on a competitive basis, or possibly allowing a new market entrant providing just that, to circumvent the need for expensive trenches to reach remote communities,” he said. -he declares. – bird story agency

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