(Ecofin Agency) - Since 2020, digital transformation in Africa, which was once neglected, has proven that ultra-broadband adoption is growing faster than forecasted.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 5G adoption is growing rapidly, since 2018. Data compiled by Ecofin Agency show that as of September 15, 2022, twelve telecom operators in ten markets are already marketing mobile services backed by ultra-high-speed technology. The data increasingly contradicts the modest adoption forecasts presented by several equipment manufacturers and specialized firms.
In 2021, the GSM Association (GSMA) forecasted the number of 5G connections would reach 35 million by 2025, representing 3% of the number of mobile connections in the Sub-Saharan African region, where seven operators were already offering 5G in five markets. In January 2022, it revised its estimates to 38 million 5G connections in its report The Mobile Economy 2022. That's 4% of the number of mobile connections in the region.
In the region, 5G is becoming attractive as days go by. In addition to the 12 telecom operators already marketing ultra-high speeds, new ones will likely proceed to their commercial launch by the end of 2022. In Mauritius, for instance, Emtel Ltd and Mahanagar Telephone Mauritius Ltd (MTML), won their 5G license in June 2021 but they are yet to proceed to commercial launch. In Nigeria, Mafab is also in that same situation. Several telecom operators are expected to enter the 5G segment in eleven other markets where the technology has already been tested over the past four years. The markets include Côte d'Ivoire (with Orange and MTN), Mali (Orange), and Madagascar (Telma).
One thing is certain, global telecom market observers’ forecasts about the increase in mobile data traffic caused by the growing connectivity demands will surely pass. Ericsson states in its June 2022 Mobility Report that average data traffic per smartphone is expected to grow from 2.9 gigabytes per month to 11 gigabytes by 2027.
Although the price of 5G-enabled smartphones is still quite high and may affect the uptake of mobile ultra-broadband in sub-Saharan Africa, the International Data Corporation (IDC) seems quite optimistic. "The slow development of 5G network infrastructure across Africa has not slowed adoption since 5G devices can also be used on the more readily available 4G networks," explains George Mbuthia, IDC senior research analyst.
The research analyst adds that on the continent, “shipments of 5G devices increased 26.9% QoQ in Q2 2022 and their share of the overall market is growing as major brands launch more flagship 5G devices into the market.”
4G devices accounted for 73.9 percent of overall smartphone shipments in Africa in Q2 2022, with 3G and 5G accounting for 18.5 percent and 7.6 percent of the shipments respectively, according to IDC.