5G connectivity promises to accelerate digital growth globally, and offers a big opportunity for African nations to catch up with the rest of the world economically.
This technology enables economies and societies to be well-equipped for the 4th Industrial Revolution, which in turn will better the lives of those with access to it.
Dr Mouhamadou Bello Moussa, Director for Strategic Partnership and New Technology at Huawei Southern Africa Region, said that 5G will be particularly beneficial for creating solutions that promote digital inclusivity.
“Service innovation is the right way to unleash 5G capabilities. In Africa, the service innovation must be solution focused, so that digital inclusivity could be turned into social-economic inclusivity to realise the ambition of digital inclusion and Tech for All,” said Moussa.
The role of 4G
Despite the incredible potential of 5G networks, 4G is still expected to be the primary worldwide connection standard until 2025, and will form the core of the world’s cellular networks for years to come.
A 2019 report by GSMA Intelligence confirms that the future of cellular connectivity is still 4G-based.
According to the report, worldwide LTE usage will increase from 44.3% of all connections in 2018 to 65% in 2025.
In contrast, 5G will be used for just 17.5% of mobile connections by 2025.
In Africa, however, 4G connectivity is far from common.
The current LTE penetration rate in Africa is a measly 10.4% – meaning that most users are forced to operate on slower 2G or 3G connections instead.
This limits their ability to access the extensive capabilities of modern technologies that are enabled by 4G connectivity, which in turn stifles the potential for economic growth.
Extensive 2G and 3G usage also hogs important spectrum that could instead be used for 4G networks to offer higher speeds and increased reliability.
4G offers powerful connectivity to users and once it is available to all Africans, the full list of benefits of this technology will truly be unleashed upon the continent.
These benefits include mobile money transactions, online shopping, smart cities, and consumer IoT solutions.
Blending 4G and 5G
According to Moussa, 4G networks will be the foundation upon which 5G is built – making it critical that nations with sub-par LTE connectivity continue to invest in their 4G networks.
“LTE will have to evolve in line with 5G over a long period of time in terms of standards, industries, and ecosystems. For operators, every dollar invested in 4G is certainly a dollar invested in 5G,” said Moussa.
“It is important for operators to modernise networks to fully tap into 4G capabilities for the future smooth evolution into 5G.”
The rapid rise of smartphone ownership in the African market, as well as the increased popularity of social media platforms, means that governments and network providers must work together to ensure that their infrastructure is a step ahead of the consumer market.
This is best achieved by improving LTE coverage – which will provide the platform for rapid 5G deployment once the appropriate spectrum is available.
This article was published in partnership with Huawei.