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Slow but sure growth of 5G amid rise of mobile broadband in Africa

Mobile broadband subscriptions in Sub-Saharan Africa are predicted to increase, reaching 76% of mobile subscriptions by 2026. However, 5G volumes are not expected to grow in the region for 2021 but are likely to reach around 70 million 5G subscriptions in 2026.

This is according to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report which projects that 5G mobile subscriptions will exceed 580 million by the end of 2021, driven by an estimated one million new 5G mobile subscriptions every day.

The forecast confirms the expectation that 5G will become the fastest adopted mobile generation. Research shows that 5G is expected to surpass a billion subscriptions two years ahead of the 4G LTE timeline for the same milestone.

The report features breakout statistics from Sub-Saharan African markets where around 15% of mobile subscriptions were for 4G at the end of 2020.

Sub-Saharan Africa

An excerpt from the Report reads:“In Sub-Saharan Africa, mobile subscriptions will continue to grow over the forecast period as mobile penetration is less than the global average. In the first quarter of 2021, more than 20 percent of the global net additions were recorded in Africa, with Nigeria having the third-highest numbers globally of net adds. 4G accounted for around 15 percent of subscriptions at the end of 2020. Over the forecast period mobile broadband subscriptions are predicted to increase, reaching 76 percent of mobile subscriptions. While 5G and 4G subscriptions will continue to grow over the next 6 years, HSPA will remain the dominant technology with a share of over 40 percent in 2026. Driving factors behind the growth of mobile broadband subscriptions include a young, growing population with increasing digital skills and more affordable smartphones. Over the forecast period, discernible volumes of 5G subscriptions are expected from 2022, reaching 7 percent in 2026.”

Ericsson ConsumerLab also released the Global Telecom Market Report (GTM) also known as "The Future of Urban Reality Report" to assess the penetration of 5G and the tremendous potential it holds to markets around the world.

The report found that, when entering the “next normal”, consumers in Africa will have added an average of 3.4 online services to their daily online activities, while also increasing the time they spend online by 10 hours per week by 2025, in comparison to their pre-pandemic habits.

This move is also expected to bridge the gap between moderate and advanced online users, with the more moderate online users having introduced more online services in their daily life over the course of the pandemic, the company added.

Mahomed Essof, Country Manager of Ericsson South Africa says: “Sub-Saharan Africa is looking at a growth of mobile broadband subscriptions driven by the young, growing population, the increasing digital skills and the more affordable smartphones. The reports show that by 2025, the new normal in South Africa will look much different than life before the COVID-19 pandemic; there will be an increased dependency on online activities for daily tasks. As 4G and 5G continue to grow together in the next five years, setting #AfricaInMotion, mobile networks and digital inclusion will play a significant role in increasing resilience and competitiveness.”

Ericsson has found that despite the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, service providers continue to switch on 5G, and more than 160 service providers have launched commercial 5G services.

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