The 5G hype has been ongoing for years, from extremely fast gigabit speeds that will allow users to download full-length films in mere seconds, to disrupting the world of conducting business.
Now 5G is finally becoming a reality, as in October 2018, Verizon started offering 5G fixed internet wireless access in the US using Ericsson technology, and the real commercial beginning of 5G is expected this year.
To get a glimpse of how the 5G revolution would affect the Middle East and Africa region (MEA), Daily News Egypt interviewed Fida Kibbi, VP and head of marketing and communications for Ericsson MEA.
Kibbi revealed during a media visit to Ericsson’s Experience Centre in Santa Clara, California, that in the MEA, total mobile data traffic is expected to grow by nine times between 2018 to 2024, marking the highest global growth rate.
She also revealed that by the end of 2018, over 20% of all the MENA’s mobile subscriptions will be for long term evolution (LTE), while in Sub-Saharan Africa, LTE will make up just over 7% of subscriptions.
Futhermore, she added that Ericsson expects commercial 5G deployments with leading communications service providers by 2019 in the MENA region to reach significant volumes by 2021.
Kibbi also explained that 5G adoption rates would be extremely fast, reaching unprecedented levels, even faster than the way 4G subscriptions grew. Consequently she believes that out of the total of 8.9 billion subscriptions expected by 2024, 17% will be 5G.
And, onto the interview, the transcript for which is below, lightly edited for clarity:
What are the main challenges that face 5G in the MEA region?
When it comes to demand, the telecommunications industry is in great demand. People want to remain connected. Also, it is not a problem of technology, as Ericsson’s innovation, and that of others, solves this problem. The main challenge is the business model, for data monetisation, automation, or digitisation is still not 100% well structured by telecom operators.
Plus, it is a spectrum, when we speak of availability, regulations, challenges, etc.
We have a study which we will publish soon, called “The sunset of GSM”, extolling the utilisation of the GSM infrastructure to support 5G, once that is achieved.
What about Egypt’s case, any future plans?
We consider Egypt as a very important market, with substantial potential. We are planning to increase our activity in the country, to meet this increased potential. During Cairo’s ICT 2018 we signed a memorandum of understanding with Telecom Egypt to explore 5G options.
The four telecom operators in Egypt expressed great interest to launch 5G, but, to be frank, it will take some time, as 4G was just recently launched in the country, so it not yet fully tapped.
For consumers, 4G delivers the experience, such as decreased latency, greater capacity, etc.., so for the time being it is still desirable. Handsets won’t be a challenge, the technology is already here. But companies don’t want to offer the devices as 4G is still not yet fully utilised, so perhaps by 2020 5G will become more of a reality.
In you mobility report, we can see a remarkable increase in data consumption per capita, and the main driver is affordability, so how can we make connectivity more affordable?
When it comes to affordability, it is not just about networks, governments too play a very critical role in the operation of, for example, how to secure coverage in rural areas. Also, taking into consideration the macro economic challenges and differences between countries-along with smartphone affordability-some manufactures offer very affordable handsets, which will increase connectivity.
And, as I said pricing is essential, as well as finding a way to gain revenues, through packages conceivably, or maybe through focusing on 5G for enterprises. And this is currently happening, perhaps not at a very high pace especially in Africa, where technology adoption is moving slower than in other parts of the world.