With so much talk surrounding 5G and the world’s migration to the new technology, Huawei South Africa’s vice president, David Chen, has said older technologies shouldn’t be ignored.

The VP is talking specifically about 4G/LTE and its place in the African market. In short, 4G rollout should not be abandoned as the temptation to implement 5G increases.

The reason for this comes down to coverage.

Right now if you don’t have access to 4G, you will likely be using 3G or 2G which we don’t need to explain, presents a far worse browsing experience compared to 4G.

“Currently, the mobile broadband penetration rate in Africa is only 47%, while 4G penetration rate is merely 10%,” explains Chen.

“Insufficient coverage causes LTE users to fall back to the 2G or 3G networks, resulting in significant decline in user experience. It also leads to congestion on the 2G and 3G networks and makes it difficult to release spectrum used by 2G and 3G,” the VP elaborates.

This is a rather important, if somewhat downplayed point. Much of the spectrum being used for 2G connectivity can be repurposed for use on 4G or more modern networks. Earlier this week the Cape Argus reported Vodacom is looking to do exactly that in order to expand its 4G coverage.

Huawei South Africa’s VP goes on to warn that nationwide 5G coverage will take a long time. That having been said, advances in 4G/LTE technology mean that operators can enhance the capabilities of the network and provide a good experience for 5G users.

There’s also the matter of the progression of technology. While many people around the world are using 4G, the same cannot be said for Africa.

Much of sub-Saharan Africa is yet to experience 4G due to a lack of coverage but they will eventually migrate. When that happens it’s more likely it will be to 4G and not 5G. That does depend on the affordability of devices and a number of other factors but 4G is the next stopping point according to Chen.

“According to GSMA Intelligence, 2G and 3G users in sub-Saharan Africa will gradually migrate to 4G. By 2025, the proportion of 2G users will drop from 46% to 12%,” says Chen.

Pricing for devices which support 4G are already as low as R299 and that pricing will continue to drop.

As such Chen suggests network operators account for both 4G and 5G when upgrading networks.

“Networks must support 4G and 5G coordination, in terms of spectrum, operation and maintenance. This will ensure that users have a consistent experience as we enter the 5G era,” says Chen.

“It is important that operators build partnerships with providers that can support the ongoing spectrum evolution with fast site upgrades and large-capacity solutions. The idea is to maximise the value of 4G networks, and smoothly evolve to 5G without unnecessary infrastructure investment,” the VP concluded.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]
Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.