Lesotho and South Africa have both raced ahead of Nigeria and other countries in Africa in the bid to commercialise 5G.
So far, Vodacom, in August, launched Africa’s first commercial 5G service for two enterprise customers in Lesotho, a new report by Ovum, a global technology research, and advisory firm, stated.
However, in South Africa, Ovum said Vodacom, MTN, and Comsol had also commenced plans to launch 5G, though lack of access to the necessary spectrum posed an impediment.
Findings of the survey carried out by Ovum showed that telecommunications companies in the two countries have already commenced 5G applications in different sectors of the economy.
Analysts at Ovum predicted that the first use cases for 5G in Africa would be for fixed wireless broadband, followed by enhanced mobile broadband.
Ovum expected mobile 5G services to be launched in Africa by 2021, but the number of mobile 5G subscriptions on the continent will initially be small, rising to 5.9 million at end of 2023.
The report stated, “The first use case for 5G is for FWB. Comsol, a wholesale provider in South Africa, says it plans to launch commercial 5G-based FWB services in 2019. Vodacom and MTN are also preparing to deploy 5G in South Africa. Vodacom said in August 2018 that it had already launched Africa’s first commercial 5G service, for two enterprise customers in Lesotho.”
“As 5G technology matures it could enable a range of new services and business models,” it added.
The analysts identified data connectivity as the most significant growth opportunity in the continent, pointing out that expanding broadband networks to seize that opportunity should be a core strategy of telecom companies.
For most service providers on the continent, the network focus should increasingly be on improving LTE coverage and capacity. Advanced African operators should also be developing a network and commercial strategies for 5G.
Access to high-speed Internet, according to the report, is encouraging the use of digital media as seen in the growth subscription to online video services.
Ovum added, “5G Fixed Wireless Broadband and enhanced Mobile Broadband are based on the first set of 5G standards, which were finalised in mid-2018 but only cover the radio side of the network. The next set of 5G standards, covering the core network, are due to be completed toward the end of 2019 and will have new capabilities, for a massive Internet of Things and ultralow latency.
“In Africa, these capabilities could enable new 5G services for automation and remote monitoring and management in sectors such as agriculture, health, industry, and smart cities. But it will take some years for 5G technology to mature and achieve significant scale, and for the new use cases that are expected to arise for 5G to develop.”