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toubab1020 Posted - 05 Jun 2024 : 18:33:05


#Headlines
Gambia among lowest internet ranking globally – Survey
Jun 5, 2024, 11:48 AM | Article By: Sanna Camara

The Gambia has been ranked among the lowest 10 countries globally in terms of internet speed and network qualities for citizens, according to a team of software and technology experts at Increditools.

The assessment, relying on the Internet speed data taken from Speedtest.net, the group undertook a thorough testing and review of the latest software, emphasizing transparency, while actively fighting against fake positive reviews of internet speeds around the world.

The Gambia has been ranked with conflict-prone countries like Niger, Syria, and Afghanistan, while communist-Cuba tags along in the same grouping providing on average, just five (5) mbps (megabits per second) of internet speed.

“Cuba has the slowest broadband connection. This reflects the country’s restricted access to global telecommunications networks and the lack of investment in the country’s internet infrastructure. Also coming in near the bottom are Afghanistan and Syria, countries that have both been affected by long-term conflicts that have destroyed their infrastructure. Just as richer, more well-developed nations dominated the faster list, it’s obvious that the opposite is happening on the slower list,” the report explained.

According to the report, composed by computer scientists and technology experts who are dedicated to unbiased appraisal and constructive criticisms that help consumers make informed decisions; “building up good internet infrastructure in large regions is tricky due to the high costs of setting up cables and fiber optics.”

“This contrasts with small countries with lower populations, which can be served by fewer cables that provide fast and affordable internet connections,” the report added, arguing that such realities are reflected in the fact that small countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, Monaco, and Iceland, among those who have the fastest internet speeds globally.

“Sometimes, data sent from one country has to [sic] go through other regions or continents to reach its destinations. Countries with more Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) manage their internet traffic better, avoiding the need to route it internationally,” it further explained.

Gambia assessment

In the case of The Gambia, analysts say a market of two (2) million population, served by four (4) GSM operators and several other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) is a critical factor for the broadband services that citizens enjoy.

Mr Omar Jabbie, a telecommunications and technology expert and ICT lecturer at Computer Science Department, University of in The Gambia, commenting on this ranking, said that The Gambia being small a country could be “a cheap excuse for faster internet speed.”

Rather, internet speed of a country depends on investments in telecoms infrastructure, technology and the regulatory mechanisms that set standards for a faster internet speed.

“Technology and regulatory fees on top of taxes imposed by the state makes it a very expensive enterprise for operators who’d expect returns and profitability on business. Yes, size alone is not enough but also economics is imperative,” Mr Jabbie explained.

He further said that privatizing the country’s internet gateway, and access to submarine cables also means that the government involvement in providing or supporting investments in latest broadband technologies determines bandwidth costs for submarine cable companies. Such is the case of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable that serves Gambia’s internet companies.

In such instances, these private and multinational companies, mostly controlled by powerful western companies, determine what quality of internet speed a country enjoys by setting costs of broadband access and rates.

He also confirms that bandwidth speed in The Gambia currently range from two (2) to 6mbps or 12mbps max, when other countries are giving up to 50mbps.

“Even when service providers claim 10mbps internet speed for their customers, this is only given at the [level of the] gateway but simply shared among several ISPs at the end, hence the lower speed for end user customers.

Sub marine cable (ACE)

The Managing Director of Gambia telecommunications company (Gamtel), Mr Lamin Tunkara, explains that the relationship between GAMTEL for example, and the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) is just like all other stakeholders in the industry, as Gamtel has 20% capacity (a total of about 50G).

Gamtel initially managed everything after initiating the ACE project and started funding it before the World Bank stepped in. It also manages the Network Operating Centers on behalf of GSC on contract bases. Under the ACE, Gamtel, as national carrier, pays monthly fees to the GSC, a private company that was set up to manage the administration of ACE monthly Operations and Maintenance fees.

“Our average quarterly Operation and Maintenance cost of the GSC is $55, 000 (3.7 million) for Gamtel, and $40, 000 (D2.7 million) for Gamcel, a total of US $95, 000 (6.4million). And the actual operation cost for the running of the office is D2million for Gamtel and D1.2 million for Gamcel quarterly as budget support, whileownership is 20% and 10%, respectively,” Tunkara explained.

Private Sector players in the GSC include: Africell, QCELL, Netpage, Inet, Unique Solutions, COMIUM, etc., while the public sector is the Government - represented by the Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy, and GAMTEL/GAMCEL.The private sector shares is 54%, whilst the government share is 16%. Gamtel/Gamcel shares is at 30%, with Gamtel holding 20% of the 30.

Internet Speed in rural Gambia even worse

However, a survey conducted by LFD technologies on behalf of Jokko Labs this year, two Gambian-based technology companies reveal a shocking internet situation in four of the eight administrative regions across rural Gambia.

This survey was geared towards assessing the level of internet connectivity and accessibility in the regions of Central River, Lower River, North Bank and Upper River regions. Their researchers conducted an in-depth test on the internet speed of all the Internet Service Providers in the country, aimed at getting first-hand information on internet connectivity in the mentioned areas.

A critical factor revealed by the survey is that connectivity is really lacking in the upper regions of the country: “Network speeds are extremely bad and not stable at all. So many communities despite having cell sites will loss internet connectivity for days. People are not provided the services paid for,” their findings confirmed.

The report also reveals that Data Costs are the nightmares for every Gambian, not only those in the upper regions. “Mobile data is exorbitantly expensive; this is the very first response you will get from almost everyone when asked about Internet in The Gambia. Data is obviously unaffordablefor the masses,” the survey concluded.

“From the research, it had been revealed that so many areas are still not having any accessibility to internet services. This has seriously affected people living in these areas. Internet accessibility is a fundamental human right, as denying people right to information is violating their rights. In some communities like Jakajary, they will have to travel to nearby villages to place even a simple call,” explained Mr Poncelet O. Ileleji, Director of JokkoLabs.

In the said survey, accessibility to airtime was raised as a concern in so many communities. “Those selling‘Nopal’ (Card less Airtime Purchase) do complain of their gain selling this, that what theygain from the sale is too and as a result most of them cannot continue. For every thousandDalasis, the retailer has only Fifty Dalasis as commission, which is way too low.Sometimes retailers also encounter a lot of losses, like sending to a wrong subscriber andit is very tedious to retrieve this, leading to the retailer losing a lot,” the researchers found.

New Investments in submarine cables

These dissatisfactions in internet connectivity have pushed The Gambia government to begin fresh investments on a second international fiber optic cable, expected to be operational by 2025.

Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Mr Ousman A. Bah, quoted in the Telecoms Review Africa in September 2023 edition, revealed a new World Bank-funding for the fiber optic cable at an estimated cost of between $30 and $35 million, code named, “the Cabral submarine cable project” under ECOWAS.

Participating countries along with The Gambia include Guinea Conakry, with the fiber running directly from Cape Verde to The Gambia.

“The government initially announced its intention to fortify the national broadband telecom infrastructure in January 2022 by linking The Gambia to a second submarine cable. Since 2012, the country has relied heavily on the ACE (Africa Coast to Europe) cable for high-speed Internet services, but frequent disruptions have posed challenges,” the Review states, noting that the Gambian government is exploring enhanced national connectivity through satellite technology. Although this is yet to be seen.

It states that Banjul intends to grant all necessary licences to the American company, Starlink, by the end of September, diversifying Internet access options beyond ACE. This strategic approach aims to make satellite services accessible without the need for physical cable installations, benefiting both Gambian and non-Gambian users,” the authorities in government are saying.
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toubab1020 Posted - 05 Jun 2024 : 18:44:02
I found these words interesting, what do you think, "Dear Reader ?"

It states that Banjul intends to grant all necessary licences to the American company, Starlink, by the end of September, diversifying Internet access options beyond ACE. This strategic approach aims to make satellite services accessible without the need for physical cable installations, benefiting both Gambian and non-Gambian users,” the authorities in government are saying.

In my opinion I feel that this is an instance where America is helping to enhance the lives of the peoples of the Gambia in an effective way.

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