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4G development must be at core of Africa's 5G strategy

4G development must be at core of Africa's 5G strategy

The next ten years, as 5G evolves, will be the best years for 4G says Mohamed Madkour, VP marketing and head of global wireless branding at Huawei.

Speaking at an ICT Editor's Xchange session hosted by Huawei in Johannesburg this week, Madkour stressed the role that 4G development will play in the continent's migration to 5G, and the implications for operators, carriers and end-users.

"Every dollar spent on 4G is a 5G dollar... because 5G needs a blanket of nice experience, good coverage of 4G, because when you fall back, you don't fall back to 2G or something... you fall back to 4G , which is really good. So globally, carriers are strengthening the 4G layer while currently investing in 5G."

5G promises a rich experience for people, homes and industries, Madkour continued, and is expected to offer the speed required to enable services like AR, VR and high speed download of 8k video.

Madkour said, "Remember globally 80% of connectivity is below 100Mbps... and in Africa, 15% of households have broadband connectivity. 5G is not just about luxury services, 5G is look at how to achieve inclusive connectivity for business, industries and households."

From an investment point of view, the core strategy must consider 5G as an add-on to existing connectivity and not a replacement said Madkour.

"I can migrate the users who are still on 2G or 3G because there is no coverage or no phones, I can give them 4G coverage and 4G phones, and then they are migrated. And when I do that I liberate the spectrum of 2G or 3G to maybe 4G or 5G, so that's number one. This is the core strategy. When you are on 4G, depending on which area or market, or whether you have a good investment view, you can opt in and add 5G in some markets. But remember, 5G is not a replacement for 4G, 5G is an add-on, depending on the services that you want."

"Adding 5G is not just 'I am buying 5G to invest'... it's a very concatenated investment because as I said, some investment in 4G is actually an investment in 5G," he said.

According to Madkour it is possible to immediately begin the journey to 5G by strengthening 4G, adding energy sources to sites and extending fibre. "All of these things are the only way to start 5G now, you do not have to wait for the government to licence spectrum to start 5G."

Spectrum the lifeblood

But spectrum is critical to connectivity and ultimately the advent of 5G deployment and commercialisation, he said.

"Spectrum is beyond the lifeblood of the telecommunications industry, spectrum is the lifeblood of the economy, period. Why is that? Because the more spectrum you license, that's how things will be deployed and how we get mobility. Every Hz that the country will license or maybe un-license will be a 5G Hz no matter what. The thing is that we need to quickly understand which spectrum we license, how we license the spectrum, to who, the fragmentation, technology neutrality, service neutrality and cleaning up the spectrum. Those of the things the government need to look at when licensing the spectrum."

He said globally, c-band (3.3Ghz -3.8Ghz) is the building band for 5G and most of networks that are commercialised right now is running off this band.

"It is a beautiful band because when you implement 5G on this band, you do not need to build new sites. So right there, you've decreased the entry barrier in terms of investment, you don't need to find new sites."

Madkour stressed that mobility is at the heart of everything and wireless will be a dominant form of connectivity going forward.

"By 2022, 26% of connectivity for industries will be wireless. And then it will go on, in about eight years more than half of connectivity is going to be wireless."

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