Qualcomm and Ericsson are banking on Africa to have a harmonized spectrum policy after partnering with the Africa Telecommunications Union, the spectrum regulation arm of African Union.

Qualcomm and Ericsson are associate members of ATU, hoping to affect policy discussions around spectrum and have a unified position by 2015, when the television signal will switch from analog to digital.

"Qualcomm believes that effective spectrum management and reduction of administrative barriers to network expansion will be key enablers of mobile broadband in Africa and a harmonized channeling plan would yield long term benefits in relation to economies of scale allowing for broadband growth for Africa," said Elizabeth Migwalla, senior director of government affairs at Qualcomm.

Qualcomm joined ATU in July last year while Ericsson became an associate member at the summit on digital migration and spectrum policy held in Nairobi earlier this month. The summit brought together private and public sector players to discuss policy and regulation for digital transition, estimates on future spectrum needs for the region, importance of harmonization, and the use of digital dividend spectrum for broadband expansion.

"Harmonized spectrum is a key factor in promoting the development of mass mobile broadband access, and a tool for the industry to successfully respond to national policy goals by providing standardized products and services," Shiletsi Makhofane, head of marketing, strategy and regulatory affairs for Ericsson in sub-Saharan Africa.

Both companies have extensive business with mobile service providers and a harmonized spectrum policy will ensure growth in broadband services beyond urban areas to rural and economically unattractive areas. Africa's 3G license allocation has been dogged by controversy in many countries and harmonization is expected to yield better results for newer technologies like LTE (Long-Term Evolution.

"The summit provided an opportunity to discuss the fast-growing demand for wireless communications services and the importance of freeing up sufficient spectrum for wireless broadband providers to expand their services, while at the same time ensuring that broadcasting services are adequately catered for, and that other important social and economic uses, such as e-health, e-government and others, have access to this valuable resource," added Migwalla.

"A recent study conducted jointly by Ericsson, Arthur D. Little and Chalmers University of Technology in 33 OECD countries, shows that in addition to broadband availability, broadband speed is a strong driver in an economy," added Makhofane. "It is estimated that every 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration results in a 1 percent increase in GDP and that doubling the broadband speed for an economy in the measured countries increases GDP by 0.3 percent.