Innovative 5G services will generate $5.2bn of economic expansion – 0.7 per cent of GDP growth – in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2034, according to a report released by the GSMA.
This huge opportunity for Africa’s digital economy depends on the availability of necessary radio frequencies, including those known as ‘millimetre wave’ frequencies that will deliver ultra-high capacity and ultra-high-speed services. However, efforts by the European space industry to unreasonably constrain the use of these critical frequencies has 5G’s future hanging in the balance.
“Africa must stand strong at WRC-19 to protect its interests and secure its digital future,” said Akinwale Goodluck, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, GSMA. Adding; “5G will be an evolutionary step with a revolutionary impact, having a deeper effect on our lives than any previous mobile generation. As mobile operators continue to expand 4G connections across the region, now is the time for African governments to lay the foundation for their 5G future by identifying the needed spectrum at WRC-19.”
Battle for mmWave spectrum
5G mmWave spectrum will be identified at an international treaty conference called the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19), which will take place in Egypt from 28 October to 22 November 2019. 3000 delegates from over 190 nations will meet to agree on how spectrum may be used. European countries are determined to limit the use of this spectrum due to unfounded claims of potential interference with space services.
Independent technical studies, supported by African countries and their allies in the Americas and the Middle East, have demonstrated that 5G can co-exist safely and efficiently alongside weather-sensing services, commercial satellite services and others.
“WRC-19 is the only opportunity for years to come for countries across Africa to secure mmWave spectrum for future use, enabling the delivery of 5G services over the next decade,” added Akinwale Goodluck. “Africa understands the need to strike the right balance between different users of spectrum. That is why African governments have actively supported technical studies that demonstrate how 5G can operate in these frequencies without causing harm to other existing spectrum services, including weather-sensing services, in neighbouring spectrum bands.”
The 5G opportunity for Sub-Saharan Africa
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the roll-out of mobile networks and services has allowed communities to leapfrog wired infrastructure and embrace the Information Age much quicker and more cost effectively than in many developed countries. Building on earlier generations, 5G brings new capabilities for mobile networks to enable economic growth.
5G, coupled with mmWave spectrum, opens up the potential for low-latency, data-intensive applications that are expected to transform a wide variety of industries and use cases. These will benefit new applications, helping the region’s transport logistics infrastructure (in-land transport hubs and seaports) and extractive industries (mining and hydrocarbon production), among others.
By enabling improvements to vital transport links in the economy, such as port logistics infrastructure, 5G will drive growth in the trade industry. 5G mmWave applications will enable coordinated movement of goods and remote control of essential machinery, leading to more efficient port operations and lower costs, allowing for increased trade. 5G mmWave applications will also make extraction activities in mining and manufacturing more cost-effective and safer by leveraging high speed connectivity and remote object manipulation.
The GSMA report raises serious concerns that, without adequate support at WRC-19, the deployment of these 5G services may be delayed for up to a decade. The GSMA’s ‘Regional Spotlights: Impact of 5G mmWave’ report is available in English.
Open letter to ministers and heads of regulation
The GSMA and its Board, on behalf of the global mobile industry, are calling on governments to support the identification of spectrum for mobile at WRC-19 in an open letter sent to ministers and heads of regulatory authorities in 170 countries globally, including Sub-Saharan Africa.
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