The exponentially faster mobile and internet speeds associated with 5G (fifth generation) wireless technology has got businesses in South Africa very excited. Theoretically, 5G will be capable of speeds up to 20 Gigabits per second (Gbps) – more than 600 times faster than the current 4G LTE, which has a maximum speed of 1 Gbps. This means massive benefits for businesses in terms of mobile connectivity and fixed-wireless access.
Cost of data
According to MTN, 5G will allow for the following improvements over 4G:
1 000-times the capacity
100-times the speed
100-times the connected devices
10-times lower latency
Africa and 5G
While 5G technology holds massive potential for businesses globally, developing nations are taking a particular interest. The reliance on mobile technology across Africa has seen the establishment of strong mobile economies which will benefit greatly from faster network connectivity. The enhanced speed and reliability of 5G will bring in a new era of business opportunity for the African continent.
5G in South Africa
There is certainly no fixed timeline for the rollout of 5G networks in South Africa, but operators and manufacturers are anticipating major use by 2020 for developed nations. For developing countries, such as South Africa, there would most likely be rollout two to three years after that.
Read more: How to get your business ready for 5G
Unfortunately, there is a hurdle to 5G deployment within South Africa in the form of the highly-contested Electronic Communication Bill (ECB). The proposal of an open-access network was criticised by the telecommunications’ industry which viewed it as a nationalisation of the radio spectrum. The Bill has subsequently been withdrawn until post-elections, but without the Bill, ICASA cannot proceed with the licencing of the 5G spectrum, leading to delays in the introduction of 5G nationwide.
The sale of 5G-compatible devices won’t necessarily be affected, however, as manufacturers will simply introduce them to the South African market with the promise of enhanced internet speed and lower latency once the network catches up.
Cost Benefits of 5G
Vodacom CEO, Shameel Joosub – speaking at the MyBroadband Conference in 2018 – explained that adequate spectrum is an essential resource for mobile operators and would effectively allow mobile networks to cut current data prices in half.
“If you can halve the input costs, you can halve the price,” said Joosub. “You have to continue to invest – to be able to deal with the massive data growth. Our success is based on investment. You have to put money in to see results.”
Considering mobile network traffic has grown 50% year-on-year over the past five years, it’s quite evident that South Africa continues to embrace mobile networks and would benefit greatly from the rollout of 5G.
Joosub said that, looking ahead, 5G enables the company to emulate a fixed network and that, in order for prices to be brought down faster, costs need to come down – and 5G will enable this: “Africa should be at the forefront of 5G because it needs it more.”
The increased capacity could also result in lower data costs, provided enough spectrum is allocated to the 5G standard. 5G services will deliver lower latency with superior speeds, making fixed wireless 5G services a potential alternative to high-speed fibre connections.
The impact of the ECB delays on the South African economy is severe as global indicators show the release of the 5G spectrum generally leads to cheaper and faster mobile data services in the country. The South African government will have to ensure that spectrum is made available quickly to promote competition and innovation for consumers and businesses.
Read more: Telecommunications Trends 2019
5G and Technology
The introduction of 5G technology is likely to introduce South Africa to the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and enhanced economic opportunities. Sudhir Juggernath, head of Orange Applications for Business, Africa, explained in a BusinessTech article that 5G technology will push South Africa forward in terms of connectivity and technological innovations.
“5G technology will meet the needs of a wide range of South African sectors through a single network that can adapt to suit demands,” explained Juggernath. “It will provide better overall performance than previous technologies and enable increased efficiency.”
South Africans can look forward to 4IR technologies including the Internet of Things, augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and robots – all of which rely on enhanced connectivity. The possibilities of product manufacture and services is endless, provided adequate 5G spectrum is in place.
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