"This is Africa" was the response of delegates largely unfazed by the no-show of ministers at Telecom World Africa last week. Apparently it's a common theme that ministers from across the continent promise to take part in panel sessions, only to cry off at the very last minute.
For countries that have a lot yet to do to get even basic communications infrastructure in place, this is a pretty poor track record for ministers who should be spreading their message and seeking information and help at public fora. Such behaviour does nothing for their reputations either.
Otherwise it was great to see the broad participation by a number of operators, with a strong showing from South African operators. It was frustrating that Vodacom was unable to talk publicly about its involvement in a new subsea cable project for West Africa. It has since been reported that Broadband Infraco, MTN, Neotel, Telkom and Vodacom have announced their intention to build a cable down the West Coast of Africa that will supplement the current SAT-3 system.
It's been well documented that East Africa should get three subsea cables if the projects all go to plan. The most advanced now seems to be Seacom, which has completed its financing and even has a launch date in 2009.
Meanwhile South Africa's second national operator Neotel has launched services and is using fibre, WiMAX and cdma2000 as its access networks. The company is definitely going for the broadband market in a huge way. The cdma2000 network is fixed-wireless only so has limited mobility.