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Regulation rocks Africa’s 5G readiness

By , Sub Saharan Africa Business, Tech, News and Development Journalist
Africa , 12 Jan 2023

The rollout of 5G connectivity continues to experience delays in Africa mainly because of market wrangling and regulatory holdups, with 13 out of the continent’s 53 nations connected to the high speed internet platform.

A new report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Assessing 5G Readiness in Africa, attributes the sluggish roll-out of 5G internet connectivity across Africa to higher taxes and levies and slow uptake of smartphones.

The report also cites increased focus on 3G and 4G by operators and high price points for 5G against low disposable incomes as impediments.

“Only 13 out of 53 African countries have launched 5G as at end-2022, and we expect that two-thirds will not launch services until at least 2025,” noted the EIU.

Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe are listed to have rolled out 5G internet.

5G is considered “only an option” in the long term as numerous operators currently focus on 3G and 4G.

According to GSMA, 5G networks will account for less than 10% of total mobile subscriptions in most countries in Africa, even in 2025. 3G networks will continue to dominate the market and according to analysts, African telecommunications companies are cautious regarding 5G-related investment.

The EIU report stated: “Telecoms companies in Africa face a slew of subsector taxes and levies. This results in high tariffs for the end consumer. Policymakers can explore measures such as infrastructure-sharing to reduce costs or reviewing telecoms levies.”

As such, “regulators in Africa will need to make policy changes such as allocating relevant spectrum and lowering tariffs to enable a faster rollout” of 5G.

Regional telecoms giants such as MTN and Vodacom, which have a presence across multiple African countries, are seen as the front-runners for 5G.

In 2023 Egypt and Ghana are expected to roll out commercial 5G networks, with Orange (France) and MTN (South Africa) ready to debut the high-speed network.

Harare-based IT expert Tavonga Zindonda said, “The demand for fast internet with new capabilities and capacities is there but it all depends on the commercial value of the possibility to warrant investment. Many African markets have not yet fully deployed 4G so even in many of those countries that have deployed 5G, connectivity is still concentrated in major cities.”

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