While South African mobile networks’ quest to more users connected to 4G at a fast pace continues, if recent predictions are to believed, not even half of mobile connections by 2020 will be 4G enabled.

This was revealed in the GSMA Mobile Economy Africa 2015 report released today, which includes stats on current 2G, 3G and 4G connection figures and their growth predictions in Africa for the next four years.

When stacked up against other countries, the predicted penetration for South Africa is actually among the markets that will have the highest 4G adoption by 2020, which include Angola, Mauritius and Namibia, which have been helped by enabling regulatory and competitive environments that encourage investment.

“The adoption of 4G for the region as a whole will rise to account for 6% of connections by 2020,” the report stated. “In the technology-leading markets such as Angola, South Africa and Zimbabwe, 4G will account for around 6% of total connections by 2020.”

On the other hand, the association reiterated last year’s prediction that 2G and 3G will still dominate mobile connections across Africa at 43% and 51% respectively by 2020.

June 2015 saw commercial 3G networks being launched in 41 countries across Africa, while 4G networks had been launched in 23 countries, but a launch doesn’t necessarily equal widespread connections.

“Despite revenue and margin pressures, local mobile operators continue to invest heavily to extend network coverage to serve unconnected communities and accelerate the migration to high-speed 3G/4G mobile broadband networks,” said Alex Sinclair, acting director ceneral and chief technology officer at the GSMA

One-fifth of current mobile connections in the region are 3G. The main factors driving the uptake of 3G, the GSMA said, are the expansion of network coverage, falling device prices and the launch of the technology in new markets. “For example, Airtel Africa added 783 3G sites across its 17 markets in the region during the first quarter of 2015,” the association said.

“Factors limiting 4G adoption in the region include network coverage, unavailability of 4G spectrum, an underdeveloped device ecosystem and the resultant high costs of ownership of mobile data connection,” said the GSMA.

[Source – GSMA Mobile Economy Africa 2015]