It is halfway through 2021 and we are still talking about 5G spectrum allocation here in South Africa. While the spectrum negotiations are making some headway according to ICASA, each day the process drags sees South Africa and the rest of the African continent is getting left behind by countries and regions which have been quick to adopt and rollout the technology.
Sure, 4G is certainly serviceable, but as the latest Ericsson Mobility Report for June 2021 explains, the country will have serious catching up to do when spectrum is finally allocated, whenever that is.
This as the telecommunications firm predicts 5G subscriptions to surpass half a billion by the end of 2021. 580 million to be more precise, with the broadband standard being the fasted adopted mobile generation to date as we near one million subscriptions per day, according to Ericsson’s report. The company also predicts that roughly 3.5 billion 5G subscriptions and 60 percent 5G population coverage are forecast by the end of 2026.
Given the slow rate of rollout and adoption here, it is likely that a small percentage of those figures will originate out of Africa unless some drastic changes occur.
“5G is expected to surpass a billion subscriptions two years ahead of the 4G LTE timeline for the same milestone. Key factors behind that include China’s earlier commitment to 5G and the earlier availability and increasing affordability of commercial 5G devices. More than 300 5G smartphone models have already been announced or launched commercially,” explains the report.
“This commercial 5G momentum is expected to continue in coming years, spurred by the enhanced role of connectivity as a key component of post-COVID-19 economic recovery,” it adds.
As we have already seen in South Africa since the pandemic hit, the digital divide is only set to widen and 5G adoption is likely to suffer as a result.
Looking at which regions will be the major players, however, and Ericsson highlights the usual suspects when it comes to mobile broadband technology.
Here, North East Asia is expected to account for the largest share of 5G subscriptions by 2026, with an estimated 1.4 billion 5G subscriptions. The report adds that North American and GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council / Middle Eastern) markets are expected to account for the highest 5G subscription penetration, with 5G mobile subscriptions comprising 84 percent and 73 percent of all regional mobile subscriptions respectively.
“This landmark twentieth edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report shows that we are in the next phase of 5G, with accelerating roll-outs and coverage expansion in pioneer markets such as China, the USA and South Korea. Now is the time for advanced use cases to start materialising and deliver on the promise of 5G. Businesses and societies are also preparing for a post-pandemic world, with 5G-powered digitalisation playing a critical role,” adds Fredrik Jejdling, EVP and head of Networks at Ericsson.
While that is indeed promising news if you live in one of those aforementioned regions, locally the outlook does not appear to be as positive. With 5G touted as being a digital transformer, IoT enabler and 4IR empowering, a lot more work needs to be done to bring it to the fore for Africa.
To download and read the latest Ericsson Mobility Report in full, head here.