Where Is Mobile Connectivity Heading In Africa?

Written by Staff
Photo by Anomaly on Unsplash

The global 5G rollout has begun, with providers in the US and UK loudly announcing the first limited service availability.  With many more countries expected to follow in 2020, it looks like it will be the technology’s breakthrough year across the major domestic markets in North America, Europe and Asia.

Cellular connectivity is a powerful force in the African economy and the future for its mobile industry is bright.  MTN and Ericsson recently completed South Africa’s first demonstration of 5G technology – a live feed from a car in Pretoria.  At long last, the continent is on the road to 5G.  And despite national variations in readiness and progress, 5G is a global technology movement and we’re all on a pathway to general availability – sooner or later.  Africa may be at the very start of this journey, but businesses can still use today’s mobile technologies to benefit from high-speed wireless connectivity.

Story from Business Chief. Story by Mervyn Byleveldt.

To understand that, we need to look towards 4G LTE networks.  A global success story, 4G is a familiar and trusted technology that’s enabled people worldwide to work, relax and connect in ways that could not have been possible in the legacy 3G world.  As mobile Internet speeds have increased, so too have the number of people adopting connectivity-driven smartphones.  The number of smartphone connections in Africa is forecast to double from 315 million to 636 million by 2022 – twice the projected number in North America and close to the European total.  At the same time, mobile data traffic across the continent is predicted to increase seven fold.  

While 5G has been capturing recent media attention, 4G LTE has been steadily evolving to connect faster than ever before.  It has played a pivotal role in creating entirely new digital industries, such as social media, while providing the likes of Uber with the means to disrupt traditional markets.  Demmand for mobile Internet connectivity has has soared in Africa over recent years and has been central to the development of many iindustrires, including Africa’s financial services sector.  Thanks to 4G, there are more than 122 million active users of mobile financial services in Africa – now the global leader in mobile money.  Sudhir Juggernath, head of Orange Applications for Business, Africa, recently explained that the quick transition from 3G to 4G was a direct consequence of the increasing demand for mobile data, as “fibre and other forms of connectivity are limited or non-existent in major parts on the African Contintent.”  Juggernath conceded, however, that “South Africa will only leverage the 5G network in the next two to three years.”    

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