The number of broadband connections in Africa will hit one billion by 2020, according to forecasts research firm Ovum.

In fact, it expects the number to hit the one billion mark in 2016, and rise to 1.32 billion by the end of 2020.

Ovum says the rapid growth of mobile broadband in Africa over the next few years will be driven by factors such as the ongoing rollout of 3G and 4G LTE networks on the continent and the increasing affordability of smartphones and other data devices.

As a result, mobile broadband will account for an increasingly substantial share of the overall mobile market in Africa. Mobile broadband accounted for just 17% of the 884 million total mobile subscriptions in Africa at end-2014, but mobile broadband is forecast to account for 76% of the total of 1.32 billion mobile subscriptions in Africa at end-2020. The number of total mobile subscriptions in Africa is expected to cross the one billion mark during 2016.

Ovum also expects Africa’s fixed-broadband market to grow strongly, albeit from a low base, as operators on the continent step up their deployments of wireless and fibre networks for home and business broadband. The number of subscriptions in Africa will rise from about 166,000 at end-2014 to 1.2 million at end-2020.

Matthew Reed, practice leader for Middle East & Africa at Ovum, said: “Although the pace of growth in overall connection numbers in Africa has slowed and the regional industry is facing some headwinds from rising competition and weaker economic conditions, there are substantial growth opportunities on the continent in data connectivity as well as in digital services that are based on those data connections."