5G in Africa - Coming but not any time soon
9 June 2020

5G in Africa - Coming but not any time soon

9 June 2020

The well-respected and influential African telecom news site Connecting Africa recently wrote an interesting piece following an interview with Akinwale Goodluck, head of the GSMA’s operations in Africa, during which he said many things that we at Telecom26 thoroughly agree with:

"5G is inevitable for us in Sub-Saharan Africa, but not imminent...by 2025 we will see about 28 million devices connected to a 5G network…which is only 3% of total connections”

“Africa’s 4G pipes are still relatively empty; the average across the region is still below 10%, in terms of throughput.  We have the capacity on the ground; we are building ten-lane highways, but we are only riding bicycles on those highways”.

In the accompanying GSMA presentation we also read “5G is at the exploratory phase. For consumers there is no real need with LTE in its infancy. However, telco-enterprise trials to establish proof points suggest its use could well come into sectors such as mining, utilities and transport in the coming three years”.

At Telecom26 we embrace innovation - and the continual evolution of the telco ecosystem.  However, we agree that the rollout of 5G in Africa is not a vital component of the mobile ecosystem. It’s simply provides a higher capacity version of LTE with a smaller cell site and coverage area.

One 5G application for which we can see potential would be for when thousands of sensors are needed on a cargo ship - for temperature monitoring for example, but when you replace that same model with hundreds of sensors, an IoT network running on LTE will produce the same result.

And so, we join the GSMA in encouraging African governments to drive the rollout and adoption of 4G in Africa rather than get distracted by the 5G agenda which, after all, is being driven by global tier 1 vendors ever-eager to sell new infrastructure solutions.

Other operators obviously agree as we are still seeing collaborations to build and maintain 2G networks to serve those parts of Africa where ARPUs are low and feature phones are still the most common devices. These operators are not even thinking about migrating these networks towards 4G, let alone 5G.

What do our customers want and need

The fact is that for many of our customers on the ground in rural Africa, they are far more interested in our 2G and IoT capabilities, especially as 3G may never arrive with many countries moving straight from 2G to 4G.

They need to be connected and, if 2G is the only option, then they need to ensure that their applications are optimised.  And, for Telecom26, we need to ensure that where there are multiple networks in an area, our customers are connected to the most reliable network, regardless of which G.

One of our customers is a major remote diagnostics healthcare company which is part of an Africa-wide project to test for, diagnose and stop the spread of infectious diseases such as Ebola, HIV and TB - and, more recently, COVID-19.

The company, and its team, are connectivity-agnostic.  They just need to ensure that their devices are connected so they can share information, receive timely results and notifications as well as treatment programs.

The Telecom26 roaming service

For this medical company, our global roaming service enables their team to concentrate on their jobs rather than worrying about connectivity.  They install one of our Multi-IMSI global SIM cards into their device and can then automatically access all of the networks covered by our global roaming service. Namely, the 1100 cellular networks from over 620 mobile operators in 220 countries.

Our global SIMs remove the need to worry about the coverage of a single MNO, or the existence of roaming alliances. Multiple-IMSI profiles are pre-loaded (and remotely configurable) on every SIM allowing for simple reconfiguration if the primary network has poor or no service.  This is all controlled via a customer administration portal.

Our Multi-IMSI global SIMs automatically select the best performing network in the area, cross-border, while providing users with the freedom to change SIM profiles and services with ease.  When coupled with our mobile device gateway (cellular router), the customer is able to provide connectivity to any wifi enabled device with service continuity even when coverage fluctuates between mobile operators due to poor coverage.

Telecom 26 - ready for 5G but focused on making the most of existing networks

We are focused on providing our customers with the best available connectivity available wherever they live and work. We are constantly innovating and evolving our portfolio based on the experiences of ourselves - and, of course, our customers. We offer a full range of connectivity options including 5G (where networks exist), LTE, WiFi, NB-IoT, private networks, 2G, 3G and 4G, as well as offshore connectivity capabilities. 

So please Get in touch to find out how Telecom26 can help improve connectivity for your team, wherever they are in the world.
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