Africa Struggles to Catch Up with Global 5G Deployment, Significant Challenges Remain

A recent report by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has shed light on the significant disparity in the deployment and accessibility of 5G technology across African countries when compared to the rest of the world. The data shows that as of December 2023, Africa has the lowest 5G network coverage worldwide, with just 6% of the population having access to this advanced mobile network standard.

While developed regions such as Europe, the Americas, and the Asia-Pacific boast extensive 5G coverage, Africa continues to lag behind. The ITU report highlights that high-income countries have achieved 89% coverage, in stark contrast to the meager 6% coverage in Africa.

This glaring disparity poses significant challenges for the continent, especially considering that the older 2G and 3G networks are still prevalent, with 10% and 19% coverage, respectively. The ITU notes that Africa’s slow network adoption is a cause for concern, as 5G coverage globally has reached an impressive 40%, and 4G already stands at 52%.

The slow progress in Africa’s 5G deployment can be attributed to several factors. The ITU identifies high infrastructure costs, device affordability, and regulatory barriers as the primary obstacles hindering the widespread adoption of 5G technology in lower-income countries. Unlike their counterparts in developed regions, African telecom operators struggle to overcome these challenges, making it difficult to provide affordable and accessible 5G devices to their subscribers.

A clear example of this struggle can be seen in Nigeria, where three telecom companies have launched commercial 5G networks. However, as of August 2023, the coverage remains dismally low, at just 0.83%. The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) reports that the majority of subscribers in the country still rely on 2G networks, with 60.3% using this outdated technology.

Addressing these challenges and bridging the 5G divide in Africa will require concerted efforts from governments, telecom operators, and international organizations. Innovative solutions that address the high costs of infrastructure, improve device affordability, and streamline the regulatory framework are crucial to accelerate 5G deployment on the continent.

While Africa may be currently trailing in 5G deployment, there is immense potential for the technology to transform various sectors and drive economic growth. It is imperative to prioritize inclusive and sustainable strategies to ensure that Africa can fully harness the benefits of this advanced mobile network standard in the near future.

FAQ

Q: What is the current 5G network coverage in Africa?
A: As of December 2023, Africa has the lowest 5G network coverage worldwide, with just 6% of the population having access to this advanced mobile network standard.

Q: How does Africa’s 5G coverage compare to other regions?
A: Developed regions such as Europe, the Americas, and the Asia-Pacific boast extensive 5G coverage, while Africa lags behind. High-income countries have achieved 89% coverage, in contrast to Africa’s 6% coverage.

Q: What are the challenges hindering 5G adoption in Africa?
A: The primary obstacles to widespread adoption of 5G technology in lower-income African countries are high infrastructure costs, device affordability, and regulatory barriers.

Q: What are the current coverage rates for 2G and 3G networks in Africa?
A: The older 2G network has 10% coverage, and the 3G network has 19% coverage in Africa.

Q: What is the situation of 5G deployment in Nigeria?
A: While three telecom companies in Nigeria have launched commercial 5G networks, as of August 2023, the coverage remains low at just 0.83%. The majority of subscribers still rely on 2G networks.

Definitions

5G: The fifth generation of wireless technology that offers faster speeds, increased capacity, and lower latency. It enables advanced mobile and internet connectivity for various applications, such as autonomous vehicles, Internet of Things (IoT), and virtual reality.

ITU: The International Telecommunications Union is a specialized agency of the United Nations that focuses on information and communication technologies. It coordinates global telecom networks and services, including the development and standardization of technologies like 5G.

Related Links

International Telecommunications Union

GSMA (GSM Association)