5G as a fixed-wireless access (FWA) solution is being positioned as the ‘technology of choice for closing the remaining digital divide in Africa’, claims Rami Osman, business development director, MediaTek Middle East and Africa.

“5G is key to rolling out broadband services in Africa that can support tomorrow’s most demanding applications at scale, at a cost that will be commercially viable for operators and affordable for consumers,” he says.

With faster throughput speeds and lower latency, 5G is better suited for meeting the ever-growing digital needs of the sub-Sahara African population, than existing 3G and 4G mobile technologies.

However, with only 25% of the population currently using the mobile internet, according to the GSM Association, there is still more to do. The association forecasts that 5G will grow from around one percent of total connections in Africa today to 22% by 2030.

Osman quotes recent statistics from Huawei, that fibre to the home penetration in Africa is estimated to be only around five percent, compared to the global average of 30%. He also says older FWA solutions, such as LTE and WiMax, have failed to penetrate the continent.

“However, FWA 5G enables operators to deploy the connectivity technology in communities where fibre isn’t commercially viable.

“It’s possible to deploy 5G with capital expenditure per user that is a fraction of digging trenches and laying down fibre, especially in areas where there are already mobile towers. This makes FWA 5G a highly attractive option for Africa’s mobile operators,” he says.

Osman adds that targeting the connected home and business with 5G FWA services enables operators to create new revenue streams.

One challenge remains, however, the spectrum allocation necessary for 5G services is still to be licensed in many African countries. Osman is optimistic this will be solved relatively soon. “Governments and regulators recognise that unblocking access to spectrum will unleash considerable economic and social benefits. We are thus optimistic that we’ll see a lot of 5G activity over the next couple of years.”

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