By Staff Writer, ITWeb

While there have been increased efforts by mobile operators on the African continent to launch 5G, fourth-generation technology and LTE still have a massive role to play.

This is according to Dr Mohamed Madkour, VP for global carrier network solutions and marketing at Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzhen, China.

Madkour made the comments during a roundtable discussion that took place on the periphery of the Africa Tech Festival 2022, where he outlined how important 4G and LTE will continue to be for Africa’s digital and economic development, even as the continent embraces 5G.

With the world adopting 5G at a rapid pace, it would be tempting for African operators to go all in on it, especially given the advantages it offers in terms of speed, cost and power efficiency.

However, Madkour pointed out that 4G technologies such as LTE still have profound impact on the world and will continue to do so.

“4G has done great stuff for people around the world,” he said. “There are a lot of companies that could only be created because of 4G, with trillions of dollars added to the global economy.”

The same is true in Africa, where the rollout of 5G is still in its infancy, Madkour said. “5G has only been around for three years and we’ve barely scratched the surface.”

One of the important lessons the continent can learn from the rest of the world, he believes, is that having a strong 4G network makes rolling out 5G a lot simpler. “The secret of good 5G is inspired by carriers having strong 4G. The optimum user experience is strong 4G and 5G.

“4G in Africa has been great but penetration is still around 50%. 5G is tiny. 4G still needs to grow, and then we can put 5G on top in places that make sense. Any investment right now in strengthening 4G will actually reduce the investment needed in 5G.”

In South Africa, mobile data-only network operator Rain became the first telco to activate a commercial 5G network in September 2019.

SA’s big mobile operators, VodacomandMTN, were unable to launch 5G services until more spectrum was licensed to them by the communications regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA.

In October, Telkom became the latest telco to step into SA’s increasingly growing 5G market.

According to Madkour, the focus on continued 4G growth is especially important when one considers that half of all households on the African continent are either unconnected or underconnected.

“With fibre rollout a challenge in many countries, solutions such as fixed wireless access (FWA) present an important opportunity for connecting those households.

“The COVID-19 pandemic underlined how critical having that kind of fast, affordable connectivity in the home is. A few years ago, home connectivity may have been important for entertainment, after-hours work, or research for school assignments.

“Today, it’s the locus of everything from work to small business and education. By promoting connectivity through FWA and associated technologies, carriers prime their customers to adopt 5G when it becomes available. With millions of households across Sub-Saharan Africa able to afford broadband connectivity, but which remain unconnected, there is a massive market opportunity.

“You can continue with the deployment of 4G so that there doesn’t need to be a dramatic change of equipment when it comes to switching over to 5G. 5G is just a continuation of your existing capability.”

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