The Status of the 5G Ecosystem in Africa
The SmartViser Team
The SmartViser team attended the MWC Africa in Kigali, Rwanda from the 25th of October to the 27th of October. During this time, we attended a number of keynote sessions and listened to very interesting discussions about 5G technology and Use Cases in Africa. One particular session was called the 5G Summit.
The 5G Summit at MWC Africa brought together leaders and professionals from different governmental authorities, the mobile industry and associated sectors to share their vision and expectations for the 5G technology in Africa.
In Africa, the journey to 5G is still in the early stages of network deployment and commercialisation. There are currently less than 11 commercial 5G networks in the region, but this will change as governments and operators in more than 40 countries across Africa expect commercial 5G to be available in their markets by 2025.
In the coming years, as stakeholders take steps to accelerate the transition to 5G, we will see the use of the latest mobile network technology to tackle the biggest challenges in local and regional levels.
Notes from the 5G Summit
During the 5G Summit, it was obvious that the 5G implementation, monetisation and adoption are very challenging. The 5G technology requires huge investments from mobile network operators with expensive cost models and high prices for acquiring the required spectrum. There are questionable practices on how to migrate subscribers from 2G/3G to more expensive 4G/5G devices since there is a need from all African countries to have access to affordable 5G devices.
Also mentioned was that 5G requires more energy than the other technologies, and providing these high-quality services incurred higher costs as remote sites are running on diesel in - conjunction with the current oil prices.
One of the slides presented during the session showed that the current live 5G subscriptions in the African continent reached 237K. Therefore, 79% of the mobile subscriptions are still under 2G/3G from the total of ~500M subscribers. Please see below:
Approach to 5G adoption in Africa
Although several challenges were mentioned and related to the expansion of 5G in Africa, there were more optimistic messages. Stakeholders, like regulators, policymakers, operators and technology vendors, spoke about how they wanted to move forward. Also, regionally, they wish to close the loop towards 5G monetization, innovation and digitalization.
The 5G Summit highlighted that 5G technology was not just an ICT/Telecom problem to solve but an ecosystem that requires players outside the traditional stakeholders. The entire spectrum of various industries that will support this ecosystem must be onboard. Support will be needed in the policymaking process, the planning process and network implementation.
Use Cases that can address the challenges in the predominantly agriculture-based economies in the region will contribute to a solution. Therefore, 5G is not about rolling out the network but finding the correct Use Case by taking advantage of the innovations that the newest technology can bring.
Additionally, there is a lot of momentum with the deployment of private networks to solve local IT problems with local mobile networks. A private network translates to having the power of connectivity in an organization’s own premises, unlocking many new Use Cases, especially in densely populated cities with big enterprises in Africa.
The 5G summit in MWC in Africa reiterated that the newest technology is not just an evolution from 4G. In Africa, 5G expansion is a social project that requires policy enablement and cross-industrial collaboration. By addressing the right challenges with new Use Cases and distinct private networks, 5G can deliver services across different industries, not previously possible.
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Constantinos Panayiotou is a Sales Manager for SmartViser with extensive international business development and account management helping companies convert telecom challenges into revenue growth.
Costantino's primary responsibility is to develop the viSer test automation business in the MEA region and brings more than 18 years of telecom experience of which the last 10 years are in the test and measurement field of mobile networks. Costantinos specializes in test automation and active service assurance fields with multiple years of experience from vendor and operator perspectives. Tests & Measurements for 2/3/4/5G, IoT, and Core networks are some areas of expertise to support organizations improve QoE and QoS.