Sub-Saharan Africa predicted to only have 70 million 5G subscriptions in 2026

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Last month Ericsson shared its annual Mobility Report, which looks at the current state of the mobile landscape across the globe and makes some predictions for the next few years. In terms of 5G subscriptions things are looking very bright for the likes of South East Asia, North America and parts of Europe, but we lamented the fact that Africa was curiously absent from this metric.

Earlier this week Ericsson shared a but more insight for the African continent as far as mobile broadband is concerned during a media session, and in the case of 5G subscriptions, it looks like plenty of work needs to be done.

This as the telecommunications company predicts only 70 million 5G subscriptions will be taken up by the end of 2026.

For context, Ericsson says there should be roughly 580 million 5G subscriptions globally by the end of 2021.

For now, it is 4G that is where the majority of service providers are focusing currently. Countries like Nigeria and South Africa are outliers in this regard given the high number of mobile users in those regions and the maturity of the operators therein, but the vast majority of the continent is still working to ensure 4G coverage and penetration is taken care of before thinking about 5G.

“The report features breakout statistics from Sub-Saharan African markets where around 15 percent of mobile subscriptions were for 4G at the end of 2020. Mobile broadband subscriptions in Sub-Saharan Africa are predicted to increase, reaching 76 percent of mobile subscriptions by 2026. However, 5G volumes are not expected to grow in the region for 2021 but are likely to reach around 70 million 5G subscriptions in 2026,” explains Ericsson.

When the company was asked as to what some of the hurdles for 5G subscriptions were, spectrum was cited as a key element. We have already seen this play out locally, as spectrum allocation is still mired in the auction process.

Curiously, Ericsson did note that the allocation process is a lengthly one as 5G simply needs for more bandwidth than 4G does, so there may also be a case of not opening up enough spectrum to meet the forthcoming need. The company also explained that having too many players in a market also brings with it problems, as there is simply not enough spectrum to go around, along with only a handful of operators having the necessary infrastructure in place and capital investment required for 5G.

That having been said, Ericsson is optimistic that things will change as the nature of work and the demands of connectivity have altered as a result of the pandemic. Savvy network operators and service providers will need to meet these changing needs.

“Sub-Saharan Africa is looking at a growth of mobile broadband subscriptions driven by the young, growing population, the increasing digital skills and the more affordable smartphones. The reports show that by 2025, the new normal in South Africa will look much different than life before the COVID-19 pandemic; there will be an increased dependency on online activities for daily tasks,” added Mahomed Essof, country manager of Ericsson South Africa. 

Let’s hope they are indeed gearing up for change in connectivity needs.

To read the full report on Ericsson’s insights for Africa, head here.

[Image – Photo by John Esperancilla on Unsplash]

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Editor of Hypertext. Covers smartphones, IoT, 5G, cloud computing and a few things in between. Also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games when not taking the hatchet to stories.


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