Fifth-generation (5G) mobile telecommunications technologies can add value and solve several consumer and business challenges in Africa.
Previous generation mobile broadband technologies have limitations regarding network capacity, spectral efficiency and latency, but 5G is well-positioned to ameliorate concerns around the inefficiencies of previous mobile broadband generations, says information and communication technology market research multinational IDC West Africa senior research analyst Oluwole Babatope.
Many connectivity issues are technology-agnostic, meaning challenges are not introduced by the technology but by network coverage, network capacity and local nuances in technology deployment.
These issues can be dealt with on a case-by-case basis by isolating the root cause, whether in fixed or mobile connectivity deployments.
For organisations, investigating 5G is an intelligent investment into enterprise solutions that allow for the creation of device ecosystems and smart platforms, Babatope says.
“One of the first benefits is the obvious improvement in higher broadband speeds, but 5G service providers need to avoid positioning 5G as simply an ultrafast broadband technology. This is because, depending on several technicalities, fourth-generation (4G) networks and WiFi can be configured to deliver ultra-high speeds as well.
“The value proposition of 5G is the services that can be delivered, the experiences that can be curated and how the networks can create improvements that extend beyond connectivity,” he notes.
“Service providers can also leverage 5G to enable business support services like the Internet of Things, virtual reality and software-defined wide-area networking. Service providers must look for gaps in experiences created by 4G limitations owing to network capacity or latency, for example, and to propose 5G solutions. There are immense benefits interlocked with 5G innovations,” he adds.
For organisations, 5G has the potential to advance their digital initiatives because the technology can drive agility and innovation. Businesses can leverage its tools and capabilities to improve customer experiences, transform business processes and redefine business models.
5G presents enterprises with a competitive advantage in terms of digital transformation, and to embed the foundations of mobility, cloud computing, analytics and social media.
“As an innovation accelerator, 5G enables disruption and drives competitive value. Companies that ignore its potential can risk gaining an advantage in saturated markets and lose opportunities in delivering or creating exceptional experiences for customers. The result is the dreaded customer churn and loss, as well as increased spend as the company fights to gain a foothold where others have built mansions,” Babatope says.
“Currently, 5G is nascent in Africa and most service providers are focused on maximising returns on 4G investments.
"However, in the short to medium term, 5G will be targeted as the next frontier for mobile broadband growth. Service providers need to proactively create the blueprint for seamless 5G migration and must consider other legacy technologies and partner with vendors that show an excellent understanding of their proposed network strategic direction. For businesses, it is an opportunity to ensure longevity and innovation,” he comments