5G impact in Africa
22 October 2019
5G is the fifth generation of wireless communication standards, promising the fastest and most robust technologies the world has ever seen. Rich, complex information will be freed to move at scarcely imaginable speeds. Those speeds, combined with lowered latency, will have far-reaching effects on every sector of the global economy.
In Africa, 5G is not imminent but ultimately inevitable. Market readiness is necessary to determine the timing for the transition to 5G. The GSMA 5G Market Readiness Index indicates that some countries are moving quickly towards a state of readiness, with 4G adoption approaching mass market and operators progressing with network modernisation initiatives. By 2025, there will be commercial 5G services in at least seven African markets, including Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, with 28 million 5G connections (equivalent to 3% of total mobile connections) between them.
The connectivity benefits of 5G will make businesses more efficient and give consumers access to more information faster than ever before. Super-connected autonomous cars, smart communities, industrial Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality and virtual reality application functionality – will rely on 5G.
5G will enable new and existing technologies, such as artificial intelligence and IoT, to have a transformative impact on business processes, helping drive productivity and efficiency. Clear, supportive strategies and forward-looking policies to prepare for the 5G era and attract the necessary investment and skills are essential to realising the aspirations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and to fully capture the social and economic benefits.
In Africa, service delivery, such as the provision of education can be enhanced by 5G, through immersive experiences for learners with limited access to textbooks. Learners will be able to access remote and enhanced learning material using online tools and platforms.
In agriculture, 5G enables the innovative use of IoT in solving challenges faced by farmers on the continent. Issues such as crop disease, pests, and drought have a huge impact on agriculture in Africa. 5G technology can potentially help the farmers navigate these ongoing challenges intelligently and sustainably by providing more detailed data about their farms and the macro environment, thereby assisting them with crop planning and minimising risks.
5G rollouts will require significant capital investment; mobile operators on the continent will invest $60 billion in their networks between 2018 and 2025, according to GSMA. Governments and regulators will need to consider market structures that foster a pro-investment and pro-innovation environment for the development of the 5G mobile ecosystem.