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Here’s How Africa can Adopt 5G and also Address Digital Divide

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By Christoph Fitih, Director Sales – Africa, Parallel Wireless
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By Christoph Fitih

The African telecom service providers are not leaving any stone unturned to catch the 5G bandwagon. They have been, in fact, on the forefront of all the efforts made for the global rollout of 5G services.

Some service providers on the continent have already initiated trials and pilots of the 5G technology. While Vodacom recently launched Africa’s first commercial 5G network in Lesotho, a tiny country landlocked in the Southern Africa, others like MTN and Rain have also started 5G trials. Rain recently announced that it would be launching commercial 5G services soon.

The buzz in the African market around 5G is not without a reason. The excitement that the telecom operators in the region are showing is backed by the ‘revolutionizing’ potential behind 5G. Owing to its features like ultra-high internet speed, extremely low latency and 1000 times better bandwidth and ubiquitous coverage, 5G presents an excellent opportunity for the service providers to tackle the issue of difficult terrain and lack of infrastructure in the region.

Besides, 5G services would enable governments in the continent to take essential services like education, health, and security to the remotest areas through digital platforms. The technology allows service providers to offer many innovative use cases like remote surgery, autonomous driving and augmented reality.

 

The leap of faith

The action around 5G on the continent is nothing less than a leap of faith. Going beyond the glamourous use cases of 5G, there are other use cases of the technology which are extremely relevant for a growing and developing region like Africa.

At the same time, there is no running away from the fact that Africa continues to be struggling with providing basic connectivity to the people. Mobile penetration in Africa stands at meagerly 44%, while internet penetration is at a lowly 25-30% against the global average of 43%. And here is a dose of reality check – even as we talk about 5G in Africa, 60% of users on the continent are still on the primary 2G network, and by 2025 as many as 62% users are likely to be on 3G, 30% on 4G and only a tiny section of the users, 3%, are likely to be on 5G network.

These are anything but encouraging estimates for service providers bullish on 5G services in the region. However, 5G can help the administration and the service providers in addressing the digital divide, which in turn will bring down poverty and provide more opportunities for growth to the people.

A different approach

5G needs a whole new plan in terms of network architecture and the way communication networks are operated and managed today. For example, for the 5G network to achieve low latency of less than one millisecond, deep and better coverage, the service providers need to provide for network densification. This is accomplished through adding more cell sites, macro sites and deploying small cells to increase capacity and bandwidth of the network.

Again the service providers would need to leverage the concept of network slicing to live up to the potential of connecting millions of devices and providing customized services to each set of customers within the same network. Slicing, as the name suggests, means dividing the network into different slices with each part working standalone virtualised unit. This allows the service providers to offer fit-to-order services to a different set of customers within the same network without incurring additional cost.

 

Virtualization: The real solution

Service providers in Africa need to adopt virtualisation technology to tie all the loose ends, and successfully roll-out 5G in phases.

Virtualization is nothing but shifting the network from a hardware driven system to a software-driven system. A software-based network has many advantages – less use of heavy hardware, low consumption of energy and space, lower cost of setting up networks and a much more flexible network.

This addresses two issues that the service providers in the region face. One, by virtualizing their networks, they can not only save cost in maintaining existing networks, but the cost of expansion to unconnected regions also comes down drastically.

This ensures that while they can expand their 2G and 3G networks to new areas, they can also at the same time afford to spend on 5G trials and infrastructure building. Virtual networks also support the deployment of higher generation technologies like 4G and 5G on existing 2G/3G networks.

The 5G technology has a lot of potential for taking essential amenities like education and healthcare, among others, to remote areas of Africa at a very minimal cost. However, 5G is a fledgling technology that still needs a lot filling of gaps and adjustments in the existing networks. Adopting the concept of virtualization for expansion allows the service providers to bring down the cost of deploying networks in newer areas and at the same time prepare the networks for early adoption of 5G technology.

Christoph Fitih, is Director Sales – Africa, Parallel Wireless

Nigeria CommunicationsWeek believes that technology makes life more exciting and helps improve the lives of people around Nigeria and indeed the world. So since 2007, we have devoted our energy to independent reportage of technology and how they affect lives.

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Omobola Seeks for Digital Revolution and End to Arbitrary Charges

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Dr. Omobola Johnson, Former, Minister of Communications Technology has urged the Federal Government to put in place robust digital revolution framework to sustain the gains of the telecom revolution for Nigeria to remain relevant in the now emerging digital world.

 

The Former Minister believes that failure to curb lingering cases of multiple-taxation, vandalism of telecom infrastructure by agencies of (mostly States) Government, may lead the country becoming digitally irrelevant.

 

Dr. Johnson who delivered the keynote address and participated in a panel at the maiden edition of Nigerian Telecom Leadership Summit #NTLS, organised by the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, decried the draconian and extant laws being used by state governors and other agencies of government to spin revenue from telecom operators.

 

 

She aligned with the industry operators that full implementation of Executive Order in this regard will reverse the trend.

 

According to her, an Executive Order will compel the Nigerian Communications Commission to be more forceful in terms of regulation, adding that any negative impact on the telecom infrastructure will, ultimately impact on the economy.

 

“The Federal Government should give Executive Order to tackle out multiple-taxation in the country’s telecom industry. It is a matter of talking to the Governors,” she noted.

 

Omobola, who spoke on the summit theme: ‘Repositioning the Nigerian Telecom Industry for the Future; Prospects and Challenges’, argued that the idea of engaging the State Governors Forum to step down on multiple-taxation has not worked in the past and may not likely work anytime soon.

 

“For me, the NCC must not be afraid to innovate or experiment. The regulator must take some risks to innovate. They are in a unique position to give action to state Governors not to temper with telecom infrastructure, as it enables other sectors of the Nigerian economy,” she added.

 

Nodding in agreement, the Chairman of the Association of Licenced Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, said engagement with the Governors has been ongoing for years and it has not worked, emphasizing that the regulator needs to be more strategic to do something different.

 

He said the multiple taxation and arbitrary closure of telecom sites has always affected the quality of service, which will turn impact on other sector.

 

“ATM will not work if you close telecom sites. Security agencies will not be able to track criminals if the sites are closed. The telecom​​ sector service other sector of the Nigerian economy, so any negative impact on telecom infrastructure is a negative impact on the entire nation,” he argued.

 

 

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Nigeria’s mobile phone penetration hits 87 percent

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L-R: Stanislaus Martins, Head, Growth and Partnerships, Jumia Nigeria, Omolola Onasanya, Head, Vendor Operations and Experience, Jumia Nigeria and Olukayode Kolawole, Head, PR and Communications, Jumia Nigeria, at the launch of the 2019 Nigeria mobile report held on Friday in Lagos.
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Statistics released on Friday by Jumia shows that mobile phone penetration in Nigeria grew from 162 million subscribers in 2017 to over 172 million mobile subscribers in 2018, accounting to a penetration rate of 87 percent of the population, representing a 6.4 percent growth increase

 

The report also shows that over 112 million Nigerians had access to the internet in 2018, representing 56% of the population, resulting to an increase of 14.32 percent year-on-year from 2017.

 

The growth according to the report is being fuelled by the availability of lower points phones, which paved way for more Nigerians to own a device.

 

Omolola Onasanya, Head, Vendor Operations and Experience, Jumia Nigeria, speaking at the launch of the 2019 Nigeria Mobile Report, in Lagos, stated that over 112 million Nigerians had access to the internet in 2018, representing 56 percent of the population, which she attributed to the availability of lower price point phones.

 

According to her, “In Nigeria, there were over 172 million mobile subscribers, accounting to a penetration rate of 87 percent of the population.

 

“This figure represented a 6.4 percent growth increase, compared to 162 million subscribers in 2017.

 

“Over 112 million Nigerians had access to the internet in 2018, representing 56 percent of the population.

 

“This accounted for an increase of 14.32 percent year-on-year from 2017. The availability of lower price point phones still remains the major driver of smartphone penetration.

 

At the end of 2018, there were over 36 million smartphone users, representing a penetration of 18.37 percent.”

 

Onasanya noted that the number of active social media users rose from 17 million in 2017 to 24 million at the end of 2018, which represents a 12 percent penetration of the country’s population.

 

Stanislaus Martins, Head, Growth and Partnerships, Jumia Nigeria, giving an overview of the Country’s Economy Growth stated that the mobile telecommunications sub-sector contributed 7.4 percent to the country’s total GDP in 2018, compared to 5.5 percent in 2017, while Services sub-sector of the ICT sector contributed 77 percent out of the 7.4 percent contribution to the country’s GDP in 2018.

 

He noted that Nigeria’s GDP growth witnessed an upward swingfrom 0.8 percent in 2017 to 1.9 percent at the end of 2018, which fell below the projected 2.3 percent, majorly due to variations in prices of crude oil and its output.

 

He attributed the economic growth witnessed in 2018 to non-oil sectors such as Agriculture, Information and Communications Technology, Manufacturing, and Transport Storage.

 

“Nigeria’s GDP growth leapfrogged from 0.8 percent in 2017 to 1.9 percent at the end of 2018.

 

“However, the growth, although significant, was below the projected 2.3 percent, majorly due to variations in prices of crude oil and its output.

 

The economic growth, for the first time, was hinged on non-oil sectors such as Agriculture, Information and Communications Technology, Manufacturing, and Transport Storage.

 

“It is worth mentioning that the non-oil sector grew by 2 percent, the highest growth rate recorded since the economic recession in 2016.

 

“The Information and Communications Technology sector, which subsumed the digital economy, grew from its negative growth of 1 percent in 2017 to become the second fastest growing sector with a growth rate of 9.7 percent in 2018”, he added.

 

Earlier, Olukayode Kolawole, Head, PR and Communications, Jumia Nigeria, said that  about 44 percent of mobile subscribers in Nigeria are using 3G technology and 4 percent are using 4G technology as against over 18 percent 4G penetration in South Africa and 16 percent in Angola.

 

Kolawole revealed that projections have shown that Nigeria’s mobile broadband penetration will rise to 55 percent of the population by 2025, with 70 percent having 3G connectivity and 17 percent having access to 4G networks.

 

He said, “It is predicted that Nigeria will contribute 4% of the estimated 700 million new global mobile subscribers, making it the only country in Africa marked with a significant contribution to increasing mobile penetration in the world.

 

“By this quota, it is expected that 28 million new mobile subscribers will emerge from Nigeria between 2019 and 2025, that is, an average of 7 million new mobile subscribers annually, if the country is to meet its quota.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Glo Gains 78% of New Data Subscription in GSM Sector in March – NCC Report

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Nigeria’s second largest telecommunications operator, Globacom, garnered 78 percent of new data subscriptions in the month of March, 2019. The operator gained nearly one million new subscribers in the month.

This was disclosed in the latest statistics released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) for the month of March 2019. According to the statistics, Globacom gained 950,115 new internet users, taking its total internet subscriptions to 28,436,386 from 27,486,271 recorded in February, 2019.

Two other operators, MTN and Airtel, also featured marginally on the gainers’ list in March. Airtel added 351,657 new internet users, while MTN added 13,552 subscribers. 9mobile, on its part, lost 166,542 users in the month under review.

Overall internet users in Nigeria increased to 115,938,225 in March from 114,725,357 recorded in February, according to the NCC statistics. This indicates an increase of 1,212,868 new subscribers in one month.

Globacom has been on ascendancy in terms of acquisition of new internet subscribers in the last one year ostensibly due to the consistent improvement in the operator’s data services.

The company has the widest 4G LTE coverage in the country, and the technology ensures more reliable and faster internet usage experience. Globacom also has the most attractive data plans in the market, with packages that appeal to both high and low data users.

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