The State of 5G in Africa in 2020

The State of 5G in Africa in 2020. 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

Vodacom Lesotho was the first to announce a live commercial deployment of 5G in August 2018. Vodacom LS announced that it has launched Africa’s first standards-based commercial 5G network in Lesotho on the 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 the country.

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 southern African country.

South Africa

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.

Rain 5G

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 gone fully commercial and is offering service to customers with a monthly subscription that comes with uncapped internet access. This is a 2-year contract and costs R1,000 per month.

The company has not mentioned any plans to offer mobile service nor support 5G smartphones at this point.

Liquid Telecom SA

Liquid Telecom announced in early January 2020 it would be launching a wholesale 5G mobile network that mobile network operators and ISPs would have open access to resell. Liquid Telecom will use its 3.5GHz spectrum to build the 5G network across South Africa.

Vodacom SA 5G

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.

According to local media reports, however, Vodacom has signed a deal with Liquid Telecom to make use of the latter’s 3.5 GHz spectrum for 5G services. This primes Vodacom SA to launch commercial 5G services in 2020.

MTN SA 5G

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

Internet Solutions

Liquid Telecom South Africa has announced a partnership with Internet Solutions, to provide them with wholesale 5G connectivity targeted at delivering enterprise services to their existing and potential new customer base. Internet Solutions will thus be able to resell Liquid Telecom’s 5G solutions to the latter’s enterprise clients.

Comsol

With access to the largest tranche of contiguous 28 GHz 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 SA

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 temporary spectrum to 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.

MTN NG 5G

The leading Nigerian mobile network operator trialled its 5G technology with a live 5G network demo in Nigeria during November 2019. It announced plans to build its 5G network as early as possible, subject to the necessary spectrum allocation.

Kenya

Kenya’s leading mobile network operator Safaricom is reportedly planning to launch a fixed 5G service in early 2020, using frequencies it is planning to re-farm from its legacy WiMax service. It has access to licensed 2.5 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands which are ideal for 5G service. It is deploying Huawei network equipment.

Rest of Africa

There are active plans to deploy 5G in other leading African economies like Egypt, 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

  • Is 5G in Africa?
    Yes. Commercial 5G is presently active in South Africa and to a limited extent, in Lesotho. There is strong evidence as spelt-out in this article that commercial network rollouts would start in Nigeria and Kenya soon enough.
  • Is there 5G in South Africa?
    Yes. Rain maintains an active commercial 5G network in South Africa. The company offers it as a fixed solution priced at R1,000 (about $67) per month. The service is presently limited to the Gauteng province of South Africa.
  • Is 5G in Kenya?
    As of February 2020, there is no active commercial 5G network in Kenya. There are strong indications, however, that Safaricom could launch a 5G service imminently. The company is said to be in the trial phase, in partnership with Huawei.
  • Will 5G be dangerous?
    No. There are no indications that 5G presents any danger to human health, at this time.
  • Will 5G replace WiFi?
    Not necessarily. 5G and WiFi are not competing technologies but rather complimentary. A 5G router would typically receive signals from the nearest mast and share connectivity with other devices via WiFi.
  • How much will 5G home Internet cost?
    This would wildly depend on the type of service: fixed or mobile.
  • Can 5G be used for home Internet?
    Yes. With the right router, and all things being equal, fixed 5G can compete favourably with fibre. This makes it an ideal solution for homes without 5G coverage.
  • What is the difference between 5G and 4G?
    5G can carry more data traffic at higher speeds to more users than 4G LTE. 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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