The State of 5G in Africa in 2019

There is a strong prospect for 5G in Africa. The building blocks for 5G in Africa are already being laid. Nowhere else has mobile had a stronger impact than this continent.

5G is currently the next level of digital mobile communications. The 5th generation of cellular communications technology is heavily steeped towards internet connectivity.

5G promises increased data speeds of over 1 Gbps (subject to environmental conditions) with real-world speeds between 200 Mbps and 700 Mbps. This is in addition to lower latency and increased capacity per square kilometre.

If you are at the edge of tech, you may have noticed the numerous speed tests coming out of the United States, where some tech journalists or tech media barons have been sharing their experience with testing the live 5G networks in the USA. Africa is not behind either. 5G has started to make some presence on this continent. The aim of this page is to chart the progress of 5G deployment on the world’s 2nd largest continent.

Lesotho. First in Africa.

Vodacom Lesotho was the first to announce a live deployment of 5G in August 2018. Vodacom announced that it has launched Africa’s first standards-based commercial 5G network in Lesotho on 3.5GHz spectrum. It started with a couple of clients in the mining and financial sector, with plans to go mainstream as more 5G devices become available and affordable.

In essence, Vodacom Lesotho’s 5G network is not really open to the general public yet. They have not published their 5G network map nor made 5G smartphones, routers or other capable devices available.

With a GDP par capital of 1,181.81 USD as of 2017, Lesotho is considered a lower-middle-income economy by the World Bank. It could take a while before 5G goes mainstream in the mountainous country.

South Africa. First open deployment.

South Africa’s economy is one of the largest on the African continent. It routinely vies for the position of the top economy with Nigeria. It is easily Africa’s most developed economy, with technology playing a pivotal role in the daily operations of every aspect of the country. The story of 5G in South Africa is a mixed bag. The prospects of live deployments are exciting on one hand, but the unavailability of the required spectrum is depressing on the other hand.

Let it Rain

Rain is a data-only mobile network in South Africa that launched in mid-2018. After some extensive tests, it has opened its commercial 5G network to some existing customers that are within its current coverage area.

rain is using the 3.6 GHz spectrum and is currently offering a fixed-network model using Huawei equipment on its network as well as Huawei customer premises equipment (CPEs). The network has about 250 5G sites in parts of Johannesburg and Tshwane (Pretoria) as of October 2019 and hopes to extend these to over 700 5G sites by the end of 2020.

The network has provided an Expression of Interest form on their website and is offering the service to selected customers at a promo price of R1,000 (about $68) for the CPE, with a monthly subscription that comes with uncapped internet access at R1,000 per month.

The company has not mentioned any plans to support 5G smartphones at this point.

Vodacom South Africa

Vodacom has made it clear its network is ready and capable of 5G-level traffic, but the lack of spectrum means they are unable to proceed with deployment.

MTN South Africa

MTN launched an indoor/outdoor trial 5G network in partnership with Ericsson early in 2018 and is also ready for the market.

Comsol

With access to the largest tranche of contiguous 28GHz in South Africa, Comsol in August 2018 launched a live 5G pilot network in Soweto, South Africa. The network is planning to deploy a fixed high-speed broadband network.

Rest of South Africa

Telkom Mobile has not announced any plans for 5G nor has the financially-constrained Cell C.

The Government of South Africa is likely to make the 5G spectrum available via auction in 2020. By then, more affordable capable tablets, smartphones and CPEs should be more widely available, heralding the beginning of super-fast mobile data connectivity in South Africa.

Nigeria

According to local media reports, Nigeria is to start testing spectrum for 5G services in the country, the regulator has announced – but isn’t yet planning services. Mobile network operators will be offered the spectrum test their ability to offer ultra-fast broadband services over 5G.

The industry regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is planning to licence 5G spectrum on 26, 38 and 42 GHz. They are not licensed for any other application in Nigeria presently.

Rest of Africa

There are active plans to deploy 5G in other leading African economies like Egypt, Kenya, Senegal, Morocco and the Democratic Republic of Congo from the year 2020.

5G Smartphones

As of October 2019, some 23 5G-capable Android smartphones are commercially available but there is no evidence of any being on sale or in use in any African country.

  • OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren Android smartphone. Announced Oct 2019. Features 6.67″ Fluid AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855+ chipset, 4085 mAh battery, 256 GB storage, 12 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass 6.
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix Alpha Android smartphone. Announced Sep 2019. Features 7.92″ Flexible Super AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855+ chipset, 4050 mAh battery, 512 GB storage, 12 GB RAM.
  • Huawei Mate 30 Pro 5G Android smartphone. Announced Sep 2019. Features 6.53″ OLED display, HiSilicon Kirin 990 chipset, 4500 mAh battery, 256 GB storage, 8 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass 6.
  • Samsung Galaxy A90 5G Android smartphone. Announced Sep 2019. Features 6.7″ Super AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855 chipset, 4500 mAh battery, 128 GB storage, 8 GB RAM.
  • Xiaomi Mi 9 Pro 5G Android smartphone. Announced Sep 2019. Features 6.39″ Super AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855+ chipset, 4000 mAh battery, 512 GB storage, 12 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass 6.
  • vivo NEX 3 5G Android smartphone. Announced Sep 2019. Features 6.89″ Super AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855+ chipset, 4500 mAh battery, 256 GB storage, 12 GB RAM.
  • Samsung Galaxy S10 5G Android smartphone. Announced Feb 2019. Features 6.7″ Dynamic AMOLED display, Exynos 9820 chipset, 4500 mAh battery, 512 GB storage, 8 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass 6.
  • Samsung Galaxy Fold 5G Android smartphone. Announced Feb 2019. Features 7.3″ Dynamic AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855 chipset, 4235 mAh battery, 512 GB storage, 12 GB RAM.
  • Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G Android smartphone. Announced Aug 2019. Features 6.8″ Dynamic AMOLED display, Exynos 9825 chipset, 4300 mAh battery, 512 GB storage, 12 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass 6.
  • LG V50S ThinQ 5G Android smartphone. Announced Oct 2019. Features 6.4″ OLED display, Snapdragon 855 chipset, 4000 mAh battery, 128 GB storage, 6 GB RAM, MIL-STD-810G compliant, Corning Gorilla Glass 5.
  • Huawei Mate 30 RS Porsche Design Android smartphone. Announced Sep 2019. Features 6.53″ OLED display, HiSilicon Kirin 990 chipset, 4500 mAh battery, 512 GB storage, 12 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass 6.
  • Huawei Mate 30 5G Android smartphone. Announced Sep 2019. Features 6.62″ OLED display, HiSilicon Kirin 990 chipset, 4200 mAh battery, 256 GB storage, 8 GB RAM.
  • LG V50 ThinQ 5G Android smartphone. Announced Feb 2019. Features 6.4″ P-OLED display, Snapdragon 855 chipset, 4000 mAh battery, 128 GB storage, 6 GB RAM, MIL-STD-810G compliant, Corning Gorilla Glass 5.
  • OnePlus 7 Pro 5G Android smartphone. Announced May 2019. Features 6.67″ Fluid AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855 chipset, 4000 mAh battery, 256 GB storage, 12 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass 5.
  • Huawei Mate X Android smartphone. Announced Feb 2019. Features 8.0″ OLED display, HiSilicon Kirin 980 chipset, 4500 mAh battery, 512 GB storage, 8 GB RAM.
  • Samsung Galaxy Note10 5G Android smartphone. Announced Aug 2019. Features 6.3″ Dynamic AMOLED display, Exynos 9825 chipset, 3500 mAh battery, 256 GB storage, 12 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass 6.
  • Huawei Mate 20 X (5G) Android smartphone. Announced May 2019. Features 7.2″ OLED display, HiSilicon Kirin 980 chipset, 4200 mAh battery, 256 GB storage, 8 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass.
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G Android smartphone. Announced Feb 2019. Features 6.39″ Super AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855 chipset, 3800 mAh battery, 64 GB storage, 6 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass 5.
  • vivo iQOO Pro 5G Android smartphone. Announced Aug 2019. Features 6.41″ Super AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855+ chipset, 4500 mAh battery, 256 GB storage, 12 GB RAM.
  • Oppo Reno 5G Android smartphone. Announced Apr 2019. Features 6.6″ AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855 chipset, 4065 mAh battery, 256 GB storage, 8 GB RAM, Corning Gorilla Glass 6.
  • Lenovo Z6 Pro 5G Android smartphone. Announced Jun 2019. Features 6.39″ Super AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855 chipset, 4000 mAh battery, 512 GB storage, 12 GB RAM.
  • Energizer Power Max P8100S Android smartphone. Announced Feb 2019. Features 8.1″ IPS LCD display, Snapdragon 855 chipset, 10000 mAh battery, 256 GB storage, 8 GB RAM.
  • ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G Android smartphone. Announced Feb 2019. Features 6.47″ AMOLED display, Snapdragon 855 chipset, 4000 mAh battery, 256 GB storage, 12 GB RAM.

FAQ

  • What is the difference between 5G and 4G?
    5G can carry more data traffic at higher speeds to more users than 4G. Due to the high frequencies it uses, the coverage per 5G site is however much more limited than that of 4G.
  • Will 5G replace 4G?
    This is higher unlikely. The wider coverage offer by 4G will ensure that both technologies remain complimentary for a very long time.

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