ICT experts have called for service innovation a key to reap approaching 5G dividends with a strong focus on accelerating 4G LTE network.
The experts agreed during the SADC ministerial ICT forum in Dar es Salam over the week that the fifth generation of mobile network (5G) is a key enabler of the digitalization of economies and societies.
The digital future is at the heart of African nations’ ambitions to accelerate sustainable economic growth and to embrace the 4th industrial revolution.
The Huawei Southern Africa Region, Director for Strategic Partnership and New Technology, Dr Mouhamadou Bello Moussa, said the big leap in wireless technology features broadband-like speed, low latency and high capacity will enable the development of new and innovative applications that are cross-cutting and impact on all sectors.
“Service innovations are 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 realize tech for all,” Dr Moussa said in During the ICT meeting in Dar.
He said 5G was now a reality in the continent after South Africa's mobile data network operator Rain and Huawei jointly announced the commissioning of Africa first commercial 5G network.
Rain has built the 5G network using its 3.6GHz spectrum, which adopts Huawei 5G end-to-end network products and terminals to take the lead in rapidly deploying 5G networks.
However, 4G LTE is still the primary choice for the world before 2025, as the basic layer of national networks, especially when it comes to the mobile broadband (MBB) access. Currently, the MBB penetration rate in Africa is only 42.7 per cent, while 4G penetration rate is merely 6.1 per cent.
By 2025, only 15 per cent of mobile connections in the world will be on 5G, however, LTE usage will be about 59 per cent by the same year, up from 43 per cent in 2018, according to a 2019 report by Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) Intelligence. The report concludes, for operators in many parts of the world, LTE is and will be the foundation for the next 10 years at least with speeds improving; LTE makes 5G less compelling.
Insufficient coverage causes LTE users to fall back to the 2G or 3G networks, resulting in significant decline in user experience.
It also leads to congestion on the 2G and 3G networks and makes it difficult to release spectrum used by 2G and 3G.
Right policies, necessary legal framework, coordination between stakeholders, alignment of decision making levels and streamlined approval process need to be put in place to ensure future-oriented spectrum planning and rapid deployment of ICT infrastructure.
“All of these will ultimately lower the cost of deployment and increase affordability of digital services,” said Dr Moussa.