28 million devices in Sub-Saharan Africa, or 2.7% of total connections, will be connected to the 5G network by 2025 according to Akinwale Goodluck, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa at GSMA during a Huawei online interview.
According to Akinwale Goodluck, “we will see little 5G hotspots in countries like South Africa. I know that some operators have started some of those things, but the ultimate goal will be for us to fill up the 4G pipes and then when 5G comes there will be a sort of limit in terms of wireless roll-outs.”
Goodluck continued, “governments need to aggressively focus on the roll-out and adoption of the 4G as markets become more sophisticated, demand will help governments to put in the right policies to support 5G.”
The 2019 State of Mobile Internet Connectivity GSMA report revealed that global internet penetration had passed 50%, with Africa at 24%. Mobile internet users is forecast to increase to 483 million by 2025 representing 66% of total smartphone connections. It also predicted that unique mobile subscribers will increase to 623 million by 2025 representing a 50% penetration rate. While more than two-thirds of the population are connected to the internet in North America and Europe, access levels remain below a third in Africa, India and much more of the sub-continent.
Vodacom was one of the first operators to launch a 5G network for two enterprise customers in Lesotho in 2018. The operator has also launched 5G networks in three South African cities, in select areas Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town in May 2020. Further roll-outs have been planned in other parts of South Africa. Other operators in sub-Saharan Africa are also in various stages of trials and deployment.
Access to internet and data plans have nonetheless come into focus during COVID-19, as many have felt the digital divide is more prevalent the ever with many students struggling to have access to internet to continue their learning online. The cost of data plans is also seen as too expensive for a lot of families living in sub-Saharan Africa.
According to UNESCO, only 47% of households are connected to the Internet in developed countries and 19% in the least developed countries. Globally, women are 23% less likely than men to use mobile Internet. The gap is widest in South Asia, followed by sub-Saharan Africa.