ICT experts have claimed that increased investment is a 'necessity' if Africa wants to benefit from the forthcoming 5G revolution. Globally, the sector is currently advancing its networks in an attempt to deploy 5G early. However, one prominent ICT expert has recommended greater investment in 4G-LTE for the Africa continent.
Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at Qualcomm, James Munn, has stressed that whilst Africa has done brilliantly to leapfrog stages of technological development in the past - it now has to significantly bolster its investment in 4G-LTE in order to be in a position to be ready for the next mobile wireless standard.
Munn said, "Africa has a way of growing leaps and bounds, as we have seen in the past where we jumped straight to a second or a third revision and we skipped the first one, which the developed markets will have gone through. We do hop quite successfully, but it is definitely clear that in order for 5G to work in Africa, we have to have a solid 4G network as a solid foundation because one does not replace the other. They are completely complementary to each other. We have to get 4G right and we are on the right track."
Munn conceded that there is a concerted effort to ensure improved 4G-LTE connectivity is already underway between African regulators, operators and other industry players, but still believed that more is needed to be done. One factor that can improve the connectivity issues in Africa, is the freeing up of spectrum in the 800MHz frequency on the back of the rollout of digital terrestrial migration in Africa, this will play a crucial role in providing 4G with a much needed coverage band, and is something that is glaringly missing in many African markets.
Mann did state that the progress made over the last numbers of years in relation to allocation, channelling and auctions of 4G-LTE spectrum has offered plenty of encouragement as it indicates that mobile is increasingly being recognized as an economic driver with a direct impact on GDP.
Mann added, "5G will only really start to pick up pace in 2019 or 2020 globally and more business cases will develop showing different ways for use of the technology as we start to connect the internet of everything. In order for us to benefit in the African context, we have to have a good baseline in terms of 4G. The markets have to have coverage and capacity in place and a robust network that can provide speed and efficiency, which is the direction we are going in now. Once that is in place 5G overlays extremely well because it will need something to fall back on."