By Oheneba Ama Nti Osei, The Africa Report

In the face of falling revenue, companies are rolling out infrastructure to encourage internet use and greater smartphone take-up.

The past few years have been tough for the telecoms sector due to fierce competition on price. Turnover for the 45 telecoms and information and communications companies included in this year's Top 500 fell by 3.71% from $73.4bn in 2013 to $70.6bn in 2014. Eight of the top 10 companies recorded a drop in turnover over the same period, with South African firms in particular hit by falling revenue after the government mandated lower mobile interconnection rates.

If 2015 was grim, executives from Africa's largest telecoms company, MTN Group (#6), hope this year to see more blue sky. In October 2015, the Nigerian government fined MTN Nigeria (#27), the group's largest unit, a record $5.2bn – later reduced to $3.9bn – for failure to deactivate 5.2m unregistered SIM cards from its network. The operator lost almost 20% off its market capitalisation in less than a week following the announcement.

New infrastructure

Twenty-four African countries had 4G LTE services by mid-2015, and 103 operators announced new 4G projects in 35 countries, according to a report from London-based consultancy Balancing Act. In North Africa, 4G deployment has been slower. None of Egypt's three mobile operators – MobiNil (#100), Vodafone and Etisalat – are yet to offer the service. Morocco is a step ahead, with all three major op- erators including Maroc Telecom (#67), offering 4G as of July 2015.

Companies are continuing to roll out new infrastructure. UK-based Liquid Telecom, a broad-band group controlled by Econet Wireless, issued a request for tenders late last year for a 10,000km submarine cable that will link South Africa to the Middle East and Europe.

The cable will be connected to Liquid Telecom's existing 20,000km terrestrial fibre network – the largest in the re- gion – to extend international connectivity to landlocked and coastal countries in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa. Indian company Bharti Airtel signed a deal with Liquid Telecom in September to use its fibre infrastructure to provide faster broadband services to its customers in Africa. The telecoms giant has four of its African subsidiaries in our top 500 list: Airtel Nigeria (#126), Airtel DRC (#386), Airtel Tanzania (#443) and Airtel Uganda (#489).

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