In coming years, Africans will have access to an internet service that is more than one hundred times faster than the current fourth generation network commonly referred to as 4G. What this means is that industry must work with regulators to make the next generation wireless system a reality.Africa has not taken the lead on the development of 5G, which will help smartphone users embrace the new tech era of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, big data, the Internet of Things and robotics. The 5G wireless network service is expected be to so efficient it will be theoretically possible to download a high-definition movie almost instantaneously.Despite the buzz, global standards for the metrics that will define the 5G network are yet to be determined.In a chat with a friend involved in trials of the 5G technology, African industry would need help from regulators on spectrum pricing, availability and taxes so that the full potential of 5G could be realized in the continent. In spite of the specifics, the 5G network will offer faster speeds and lower latency, a shorter time interval between sending and receiving data than its predecessor. The introduction of the fight generation network is predicted to offer speeds as high as 10 gigabits per second, which is 100 times faster than the current 4G network which is being rolled out across Africa where 2.5G and 3G are still the dominant spectrums.It could also mean loading an entire 4K film in under a minute or live-streaming a virtual reality experience on the go. No doubt understanding the potential for 5G is easier when we consider the technology that comes with it. Reducing latency or the time it takes for your internet to recognise a command from the current 60 milliseconds to 1 millisecond will be a big deal. The 5G speed will offer a whole new plethora of opportunities in regards to online streaming and the internet of things. Implementations of 5G, Virtual Reality, Artificial Intelligence, big data, and robotics among others will definitely take off.The mobile industry expects 5G to deliver these new services as well as new business models.
My friend predicted that Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Kenya could expect to reap US$100 billion from the 5G platform by 2040 if they fully implement like they’ve been doing with 4G with cars and household appliances leading the way.While the current 4G offering of 15 megabits per second is fast enough to stream songs, stream video or browse the internet, the introduction of 5G will present the ability to download ultra-high definition movies or television seasons in mere seconds. He also anticipate that there will be more than 500 million connected devices and systems in Africa by the time 5G is available, devices such as wearables, household gadgets and sensors embedded in industrial products will greatly benefit from the faster speeds and lower latency. While each of these connected devices might not use much data individually, combined they become sapping on the current bandwidth.As such, the introduction of the cellular network will shift from a personal communications platform to a computing platform offering universal connectivity.The downside of it is that mobile operators like MTN, Airtel Africa, Vodacom and Safaricom among other leading brands in Africa must prepare for fall in consumer data prices which will be expected to reach zero. He believes there is a real possibility the price for data to the customer will go to zero in the next ten years, adding that operators must ensure that they offered wider, consumer-friendly services to continue to be relevant and avoid falling down the value chain.Key drivers of Africa’s telecom industry in the future will include regulations, competition, IP messaging services and market saturation. For the ordinary consumer, the migration to 5G he predicts that it won’t result in a dramatic change in their mobile packages being offered at the moment but customers could likely expect an increase in the amount of data discounts.Improvements in the technological infrastructure such as a move to 5G will be more to do with increasing the efficiency and capacity of the telco’s networks in Africa to allow them to take advantage of greater opportunities in the internet of things that will change Africa as we know it today.