Ways 5G Network will revolutionise commerce in Africa

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020 09:13 |

A report on 5G in Africa by GSMA, a global trade organisation for mobile operators, estimates that only seven African countries, including South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, will have 5G by 2025 and this will account for only three per cent of mobile data compared to 16 per cent globally. It is assumed enterprises and public institutions, rather than consumers, will be the initial 5G customers. Here are some ways the 5G technology will enhance commerce in the continent, according to GSMA.

Transmission time

Transmitting data at 10 gigabits per second, 5G network will deliver up to a hundred times faster data speeds compared to what the best 4G Long Term Evolution connection can provide today.

It increases the capacity and speed using a different radio interface together with core network improvements.

Even though the actual speeds of 5G networks will realistically be slower than that, the pure speed that 5G promises will provide a huge boost for companies.

With 5G network speeds, transferring huge amounts of data will no longer be a problem. 

Higher device capacity

A network can only handle a certain number of devices and data transmissions at once and 5G networks promise to increase the capacity and spectrum band over 4G deployments.

It is estimated that 5G deployments can support up to one million devices per square kilometre, which then allows enterprises to support a large number of devices in their infrastructure.

The larger spectrum band of 5G permits more simultaneous transmissions since there are more radio wave frequencies to use.

5G’s spectrum band consists higher radio frequencies, which means that data transmissions will be much faster than 4G.

High speed remote work

One of the greatest advantages of mobile devices in the business world is that it allows employees to work from essentially anywhere.

With the higher data speeds that 5G deployments promises, remote work can be accomplished at faster rates even when employees are not connected to a business network.

With Africa not yet entirely covered with absolute infrastructure, this offers an opportunity for public-private partnerships so that development of clear networks will then improve business in the continent.

Intelligent internet of things adoption

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the way companies think of data and connectivity. IoT devices generate tonnes of data for analysis and many businesses are planning to create an entire IoT ecosystem.

With the higher data speeds of 5G, enterprises can access that data quicker and accommodate every device at the IoT edge with increased capacity.

IoT will allow companies to maximize business value – sensors, software and other technologies in physical assets which can connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the internet.

This will drive innovation and greater efficiencies from design to manufacturing.

Industrial Revolution in Africa

The 5G network could help revolutionise several industries, including manufacturing, agriculture, transport and health sector – making factory automation, communication between self-driving vehicles to regulate traffic or real-time surgical operations performed on patients in different time zones a reality.

The arrival of 5G—the next generation of wireless networks—unleashes an opportunity for smart cities to take full advantage of what’s being called the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where everything that can be connected will be and the full force of transformative technologies like artificial intelligence forward-looking city leaders are preparing now for the game-changing technology.

They realise 5G could impact almost every aspect of city operations and service delivery: optimising performance of power and water grids, trash collection, and transit; transforming public health and education; curbing pollution; and streamlining disaster management.

Real time projects facilitation

5G technology could enable live streaming of a virtual reality classroom. Imagine students back in Africa being able to sit where ever they are and take classes from Harvard or Manchester without having to be physically present.

This is the highlight of network advancement that can be beneficial to students.

Teachers and Doctors can easily do their work in a freer environment devoid of challenges.

African countries could thus invest in newer 5G and “leapfrog (their way) to high-speed connectivity which will clearly enhance projects.

Lower overhead for Operators

Ultimately, despite the cost barriers, software-based network environments will result in lower overhead for operators which should ultimately translate into savings for businesses.

Software-defined networking allows for more automated provisioning and policy-based management of network resources, and updating networks without replacing expensive hardware.

Clients are also set to benefit because 5G ultimately should be a cheaper option once Africa rolls it out. 

Pro-Investment policies

Many African governments are yet to develop the regulations – including spectrum allocation rules – that will enable 5G deployment.

Governments and regulators could consider fostering a pro-investment and innovation environment to support the growing 5G ecosystem by focusing on issues such as network deployment, network flexibility, regulatory costs and spectrum access, according to the GSMA.

This could obviously drive business going forward especially the multi-billion shilling SME sector. With Gabon, Lesotho and South Africa already on trial phase of 5G, Investment is likely to grow tenfold and intra-Africa trade will definitely be boosted. 

Quicker and easier automation

5G will also help automate processes for enterprises especially for growing businesses in Africa.

Applications such as logistics and warehousing, which require real-time location tracking, are expected to benefit immensely from 5G deployment. According to Gartner, 5G may also be used as a network backbone for private enterprise broadband upgrades.

Features of 5G such as network slicing and service-based architecture let enterprises dedicate different bandwidth levels across multiple services.

By enabling private networks for industrial users, 5G networks are expected to expand the mobile ecosystem and enable enterprise growth and innovation in autonomous transportation, telemedicine, retail (for instance shopping experiences using mobile AR) smart spaces (homes, factories, buildings and cities), manufacturing automation, and finance (including wearable technologies for secure and instant data transfer and financial-recommendation software using artificial intelligence).

Potential for faster progress

By 2025, commercial 5G services are expected to be available in at least seven markets in sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, according to the GSMA survey.

Enterprises and public institutions are expected to be the initial adopters of 5G via fixed wireless access points which will act as hotspots. In a region where fixed broadband penetration is still very low, 5G will be filling an important infrastructure need.

The main hurdle for 5G deployment in sub-Saharan Africa is that while the cost of building out infrastructure is high, network operators do not expect the price-sensitive consumers in the region to foot the bill – which is why enterprises are expected to be among the initial adopters.

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