The positive adoption of 5G technology has tremendous potential to affect African communities and economies in a positive manner. 5G networks – if correctly taken up and rolled out – will offer African businesses and individuals the critical infrastructure to fully participate in the global workforce.
So says Ruan du Preez, vendor alliance director: South Africa and SADC at Exclusive Networks, who notes: “Fifth-generation wireless (5G) is the latest iteration of cellular technology, engineered to greatly increase the speed and responsiveness of wireless networks. With 5G, data transmitted over wireless broadband connections can travel at speeds that exceed wireline network speeds and offer extremely low latency, which is useful for applications that require real-time feedback.”
Ray Hagen, global senior product line manager at ProLabs, adds that “a young and growing population” positions Africa with tremendous upside for 5G deployments. ProLabs, a leader in optical networking infrastructure, is distributed throughout Sub-Saharan Africa by Exclusive Networks Africa and is dedicated to building 5G supportive fibre infrastructure throughout the globe.
Issues to consider around 5G rollout in Africa
Africa’s earliest adopters of 5G are facing teething problems that stand to delay their 5G goals. Business news outlet QuartzAfrica comments: “The challenges have revolved around spectrum regulation clarity, commercial viability, deployment deadlines, low citizen purchasing power of 5G enabled smartphones, and expensive internet.”
While funding and 5G regulatory matters continue to remain obstacles towards mass adoption, progress is being made towards full deployment of the new standard.
“Even with the rollout of 5G networks in its infancy stages in Africa, we hope to see the six operators that were granted 5G licences in South Africa earlier this year – namely Vodacom, MTN, Rain, Telkom, Cell C and Liquid Telecom – working towards unlocking its advantageous elements for the benefit of individuals, business, and the economy overall,” comments du Preez.
Hagen adds: “Applications and business cases for 5G have not taken hold to truly incentivise mobile carriers to offer more than wireless broadband services. CIOs must communicate their vision with partners in the mobile carrier space to ensure the 5G infrastructure is deployed when and where it is needed. Private 5G networks must plan around where workloads must take place.
“5G is nowhere near reaching ubiquity in Africa or even most of the world. The regulatory environment governing 5G spectrum will continue to be a hindrance to 5G deployments across the region.”
Nonetheless, even with the need to overcome several hurdles ahead of it, 5G will offer African businesses and labour the critical infrastructure required to fully participate in the global workforce. When public 5G services are initially deployed, consumers and businesses should be able to experience landline like broadband data rates over the mobile network, bringing significant benefits.
“Digital transformation initiatives will be accelerated by 5G networks,” says Hagen. “Fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband services are expensive and take time to install, whereas 5G services only require fibre to be deployed to a radio site – and this radio site may even be co-located with access to existing fibre.” The economics of deploying high speed data services to more users, faster, is central to 5G’s value proposition and a key factor in combating regulatory red tape.
Beyond wireless broadband services, 5G promises to be an enabler of new applications, capable of driving productivity gains by connecting embedded sensors for massive machine-to-machine communication and Internet of Things (IoT) deployments.
“Access to 5G networks will open up work and learning possibilities to individuals at home across Africa, and help to ensure that business in the region can compete with the rest of world to bring products to market,” concludes Du Preez.