5G technology will take longer than expected to integrate in South Africa

19 February 2019 Consultancy.co.za 2 min. read
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Despite active efforts amongst technology and telecom companies to introduce the new wave of 5G technology, management consultancy Frost & Sullivan predicts that 3G will remain the dominant platform for the next three years at the very least, primarily due to costs.

The biggest telecom companies in South Africa have been working to develop 5G infrastructure in the country, and the latest technology is expected to drive substantial growth in the telecom as well as the digital services sectors. By 2022, the telecom sector in South Africa is expected to surpass a value of $4 billion.

Nevertheless, setting up the infrastructure for 5G technology is a considerable challenge, and requires an innovative approach in an economy that already appears to be struggling. As a result, experts have been forced to bring their expectations down temporarily and allow for a longer introduction period.

Only one of the major telecom companies in the country currently has concrete plans to launch 5G over the next year, while others such as MTN and Vodacom – the most popular networks in the country – are still devising plans for a possible introduction without any specified time period.

5G technology will take longer than expected to integrate in South Africa

According to the Head of Information Communications Technology at consulting firm Frost & Sullivan Saurabh Verma, even after a future launch of 5G from major telecom firms, it will take a while for 5G to be integrated into business models in a manner that contributes to efficiency and optimisation. 

“5G is all about use cases and identifying the right kind of use cases to really deploy 5G technology. Unless you have that, it will be a difficult conversation for the CFO or CEO to justify that kind of investment to the board,” said Verma.

Unlike other major economies, South Africa remains a market with a relatively underdeveloped data infrastructure, which makes the cost of data services considerably high. As a result, even 4G technology is yet to gain momentum in the country, as 3G remains the spectrum of choice for customers.

“5G is not just the next generation of telecoms infrastructure; it is more about the ecosystem. Unless you go and collaborate with ecosystem partners, you will not be able to find the right use cases for 5G. Yes, 5G will solve a lot of problems in terms of delivering superior connectivity, speeds and lower latency but just looking at the investment, which is three times what it was for 3G or 4G, will be a challenge,” he added.