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Why service innovation, 4G LTE is crucial to Africa's 4IR ambitions

By , ITWeb
Africa , 25 Sep 2019

Why service innovation, 4G LTE is crucial to Africa's 4IR ambitions

Service innovation is key to reaping the upcoming 5G dividend, with a strong focus on accelerating the proliferation of 4G LTE networks.

This is one of the main takeaways from the 2019 Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ministerial ICT Forum hosted recently in Dar es Salam.

The Forum was hosted by government of Tanzania and attended by representatives from Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Dr Mouhamadou Bello Moussa, director for strategic partnership and new technology at Huawei Southern Africa Region, said the big leap in wireless technology features broadband-like speed, low latency and high capacity which will enable the development of new and innovative applications that will cut across all sectors.

"Service innovation is the right way to unleash 5G capabilities. In Africa the service innovation must be solution focused, so that digital inclusivity could be turned into social-economic inclusivity to realise the ambition of digital inclusion and tech for all."

Huawei claims that while the 5G usage scenario will be more industrial communication specific in the next few years, 4G LTE is still the primary choice for the world before 2025 "as the basic layer of national networks, especially when it comes to the mobile broadband (MBB) access."

The company adds that currently, the MBB penetration rate in Africa is only 47.2%, while 4G penetration rate is merely 10.4%.

"Insufficient coverage causes LTE users to fall back to the 2G or 3G networks, resulting in significant decline in user experience. It also leads to congestion on the 2G and 3G networks and makes it difficult to release spectrum occupied used by 2G and 3G," Huawei adds.

Dr Moussa said the huge potential of 4G LTE in democratising connectivity to empower people and businesses can be released only when it is affordable to the common people.

"Right policies, necessary legal framework, coordination between stakeholders, alignment of decision making levels and streamlined approval process need to be put in place to ensure future-oriented spectrum planning and rapid deployment of ICT infrastructure. All of these will ultimately lower the cost of deployment and increase affordability of digital services."

By 2025, only 17.5% of mobile connections in the world will be on 5G, however, LTE usage will be about 65% by the same year, up from 44.3% in 2018, according to a 2019 report by GSMA Intelligence.

The report concludes that for operators in many parts of the world, LTE is- and will be the foundation for the next ten years at least, with improved speeds.

"LTE will have to evolve in line with 5G NR over a long period of time in terms of standards, industries, and ecosystems. For operators, every Dollar invested in 4G is certainly a dollar invested in 5G. This is in the sense that 5G will not supersede 4G, but build upon it. It is important for operators to modernize networks to fully tap 4G capabilities for the future smooth evolvement into to 5G by using of the existing 4G networks" said Dr Moussa.

He added that immediate actions need to be taken by both policy makers and business leaders in Sub-Saharan Africa to seize "the rare window of opportunity" for promoting digital economy and socio-economic wellbeing by investing in 4G LTE.

According to an official statement issued by SADC, officials approved several frameworks and guidelines for implementation including: the SADC Mobile Broadband Gap Analysis Guidelines; framework for Setting up the SADC Regional Computer Incident Response Team CIRT; framework for SADC Shared Satellite Programme; and Action Plan 2019 on SADC Women and Youth Empowerment in ICT.

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