Africa advised to prepare now for 5G

Kathy Gibson is at Africacom 2020 – 5G has become a reality around the world, and we can expect to see an increase in use cases and subscriptions over the next couple of years.

Thecla Mbongue, senior research analyst at Omdia, says 5G subscriptions are expected to exceed 1-billion in 2022, and 2-billion in 2024 – and most of these will be mobile subscriptions.

5G is starting to take off in Africa, with several operators already deploying 5G.

Mbongue explains that most of the use cases for 5G are currently fixed wireless, broadband access and mobile broadband especially in the higher-end segment of the market.

The main stumbling block to 5G growth looks set to be spectrum allocation, she adds.

The pandemic has certainly boosted the case for 5G, but more needs to be done to make it a reality.

A September 2020 survey by Omdia and Informa indicates that 60% of respondents did not consider 5G as a priority and deployments are still not planned or considered.

Of those organisations that do have 5G plans, 40% say that pricing has no impact on their planning. However, the pandemic has seen 42% of respondents put their 5G projects on hold.

“However, 18% saw their plans accelerating, particularly in South Africa,” says Mbongue.

Despite the hiatus, there are still high hopes for 5G in Africa, with 66% of people believing there are good prospect for the technology post-Covid.

Mbongue believes the current low level of 5G enthusiasm on the continent is a result of regulatory uncertainty.

Chafic Traboulsi, vice-president and head of networks at Ericsson Middle East and Africa, points out that 5G could play a positive role in rebuilding African economies in the post-Covid era – and the telecommunications companies have demonstrated their worth during the crisis.

“In times of crisis, communication becomes more important. It is very clear that communication has become a necessity, with countries relying on it to enable business continuity.

“In a way, this crisis has shown us the importance of the networks and the infrastructure.”

Globally, there has been increased demand for telco services, although the demographics of this demand have not been the same across all regions.

“We have seen a lot of differences,” Traboulsi says. “Particularly in countries where they is limited penetration of fixed networks, we have seen an increase in mobile connectivity.

“The geographic distribution of network traffic very different from before the crisis and, in Africa, there is definitely an increase in the use of mobile networks.”

The latest Ericsson Mobility Study shows that mobile penetration in Africa is at 83%. This is higher than previously, but still lower than the global number.

Meanwhile, mobile data traffic is up by 6,5-times over the last five years.

Smartphone penetration is expected to reach 73% by 2026. With 50-million 5G subscriptions forecast by the same timeframe, this technology will account for about 5% of mobile subscriptions.

“So 5G is definitely here, and we are setting up the networks,” Traboulsi says.

In making the move to 5G, he says operators need to pay attention to their current investments on the transmission networks; ensure that their 4G coverage is good; and focus on networks in the cities where 5G subscribers will likely be.

“They need to look at the potential and the business opportunities for the technology,” he adds. “5G offers a lot of opportunities in the consumer segment.”

The difference in performance between 4G and 5G is significant – about five- to six-times more – so operators need to stimulate and monetise the demand for mobile services, leveraging 5G’s capabilities.

“We also need to start exploring and monetising the new and innovative services, use cases and business models enabled by 5G, in collaboration with partners and ecosystem players.

“And we need to start exploring these now, particularly in Africa.”

Fixed wireless will likely be the first 5G service, Traboulsi says. “The business proposition is that 80% of households in Africa are currently unconnected. So there is big potential for fixed wireless – in fact, we don’t have to wait for 5G to do this.

“In areas where there is no connection, we can offer community access and household access.”

Traboulsi says that 5G subscription uptake is expected to be significantly faster than that of LTE. “It is important to start talking today, especially in Africa, about what we are going to do with 5G and making the investments.”

The key enablers of 5G will be 5G-ready radios and basebands, dynamic spectrum sharing, carrier aggregation and tighter internetworking.

“The recipe for 5G deployment is to leverage the best 4G networks; build with precision and with optimised total cost of ownership (TCO); affordable 5G with spectrum sharing; and spectrum availability within a supportive regulatory framework.”

Traboulsi says supportive regulation will drive uptake at a much faster rate.

“This is the call for Africa: to increase digitalisation across the continent and enhance the services available to consumers.”

Sourced from: IT-Online. View the original article.

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