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Mobile network congestion to worsen unless there is growth in broadband – ITU

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The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has warned that if action is not taken to fast-track the growth of mobile broadband, mobile phone users would face worsening network congestion.

The ITU says the current bad situation of network congestion which subscribers are experiencing, will continue and eventually get worse.

According to the ITU, smartphones such as Iphone, Android, Galaxy Tab among others, which are set to rise from the current global estimate of 500 million handsets in use, to almost two billion by 2015, are consuming an average of five times data capacity more than users of ordinary mobile phones and hence the need for governments to show enough commitment to the growth of mobile broadband.

“Governments need to take urgent action now to support mobile broadband growth by avoiding network bottlenecks”, says Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunications Union in a press release dated February 11, 2011.

According to Dr Touré, this will accelerate fibre roll-out and greater spectrum availability.

According to the ITU, even though mobile operators have invested billions of dollars to upgrade and improve the capacity and performance of their networks, some mobile phone users are still frustrated by the chronic problems of network unavailability.

The ITU boss said countries need to have a National Broadband Plan which will promote enough and extra spectrum to support the growing number of data-intensive applications.

“Robust National Broadband Plans that promote extra spectrum and the faster roll-out of the fibre networks which are essential to mobile backhaul are vital to support the growing number of data-intensive applications,” he said.

An ITU analysis shows that only 98 countries have National Broadband Plans in place but this number is set to increase in the coming years.

In 2010, ITU inaugurated a Commission known as the Broadband Commission for Digital Development to highlight the need for governments worldwide to promote broadband as a key development tool and push broadband network roll-out more proactively.

The Commission, which is co-chaired by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and Carlos Slim Helú, Honorary Lifetime Chairman of Grupo Carso recommended in its report which was delivered to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York September 2010, that world leaders should focus on building a ‘virtuous broadband development dynamic’, and urged governments not to limit market entry, not to tax broadband and related services too heavily, and to ensure ample availability of spectrum to support mobile broadband growth.

Mobile phones are particularly significant and popular in developing countries, where land lines and traditional communications infrastructure can be unreliable or non-existent.

In Ghana for instance about 75% of the country’s 23 million population are mobile phone subscribers, the national regulator, the National Communication Authority (NCA) has said.

According to statistics from the NCA, the total number of mobile phone subscribers in Ghana is over 17.4 million at December end 2010. It puts the figure specifically at 17, 436, 949 subscribers which is an increase of 2.2% from the November figure of 17,062,917. And the 2.2% increase in subscriber rates in the month of December is the highest increase in the entire year 2010.

And Ghanaian subscribers are familiar with network congestion issues.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi & Ekow Quandzie

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