by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
JOHANNESBURG – AFRICAN businesses must make the most of fifth-generation technology (5G) even though this network is in its infancy stage across the continent.
This has been the prevailing sentiment at the Digital Council Africa Conext 2021 conference where experts said as 5G becomes increasingly ubiquitous, it will dramatically change the way business operates across Africa.
While it will have a significant impact on mobile internet speeds, it will also provide and enable new solutions across a vast swathe of industries.
“5G is lighting up the future of societies and economies,” said Dr Mohamed Madkour, Vice President of Huawei Global Wireless Networks Marketing and Solutions.
He said although it might seem like a technical subject, it had a greater purpose and higher stakes.
“In fact, 5G will play an important role in helping people live happier and safer lives, organisations operating more efficiently, and ensuring that the planet has a greener future.”
Madkour added, “When we talk about 5G, we should distance ourselves from speed and killer applications and focus on the purpose to which we’re applying it.”
Within the South African context, that 5G could be beneficial to South Africa’s mines, which have extensive underground tunnels.
This is according to Marius Engelbrecht, Senior Strategy Consultant at Huawei.
The low latency speeds makes it particularly useful for Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, which can help make the whole environment safer.
Engelbrecht also pointed out that 5G has applications in the steel production sector.
He cited the example of Guangxi Iron and Steel in China, where a game controller device enables people to operate a crane remotely.
“Apart from the obvious safety and efficiency benefits, this also shows how 5G is bringing together different technologies in new and innovative ways,” Engelbrecht said.
However, in order for those benefits to accrue, infrastructure and policy regulation are critical to ensure the rollout of 5G is to the benefit of all.
Dr Charley Lewis, Councillor for Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), also projected 5G to bridge the digital divide.
“Historically, the divide was a telephony divide but it has remained persistent,” he said.
“We need to look at ways of deploying 5G that will not exacerbate that digital divide and develop use cases that are specific to our context and that will assist socio-economic and business development in the country.”
Angela Wamola, Acting Head of Sub-Saharan Africa: GSMA, said “I don’t think that we’ve even scratched the surface of the pace of 5G infrastructure rollout.”
She noted the demographics of the continent.
She cited that 40 percent of the population was under 14 years old.
By 2050, 50 percent of the population will be under the age of 25.
“Once they come of age and start demanding products and services to suit their lifestyles, we’ll be running around trying to meet their needs,” Wamola.
– CAJ News