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Telecommunications: 2G Networks In Africa Aren’t Going Anywhere

How long will telecommunications 2G survive?

Remember what some relate to as the “good old days”…? Everyone played Snake on the latest Nokia phone.

That was the era of 2G technology in telecommunications.

But times have changed, and rapidly.

Now people have to contend with Wifi, phone apps, social media, which movie to download, video calling and selfie pics storage.

Africa has a range of telecommunication networks on offer from 2G to 3G to 4G and even in certain parts, 5G in test phases. With each network comes higher costs but at the same time, enhanced benefits.

Customers have to make a choice between what they want and what their budget can afford.

In South Africa, consumers have moved quite rapidly from 2G to 3G, however the huge costs

Edge coverage in Southern Africa

Image Credit: Vodacom

Edge coverage in Southern Africa.

Predictions are, however, that there will be massive growth in 4G and Wifi connections in South Africa. (Source)

5G is coming, but…

However, something big is on the horizon.

5G is about to be launched worldwide in 2019 and 2020.

Things are going to change in a big way. For the first time, download speeds of around 1 gigabyte per second will be achieved. This means you will be able to download software updates, business files or even movie downloads at speeds unheard of before.

IoT (Internet of Things), smart cities, driverless cars and smart houses are on the horizon.

GPRS Coverage In Southern Africa

Image Credit: Vodacom

GPRS coverage in Southern Africa.

And how will this affect Africa? Well, many people in Africa still use mobile phones with 2G technology and have no real interest in 3G, 4G, 5G or for whatever else is coming in the future.

All consumers desire is something to connect with people, and 2G telecommunications gives them that, enabling people to make calls, sms, mms and use GPRS or EDGE for data. It’s pretty basic, but that’s all most people need.

And while the majority of users may be perfectly satisfied with what 2G offers, the question is, how long will the digital citizens of Africa be able to continue using 2G?

Time is running out for them as most MNO’s worldwide slowly decommission older networks as newer networks get released. This is to allow more space on the radio bands and use them for newer technologies such as 4G, LTE, and the soon to be released 5G.

Already in certain parts of the world, the older 2G networks are being shut down, but African countries, slightly lagging behind the rest of the world, are still keeping 2G telecommunications on.

Pilot phases

In certain parts of Africa, 5G networks are being rolled out in test phases.

In August 2018, Lesotho saw the first 5G commercial network launched by Vodacom. The reason for this was to connect two corporate clients in the area. The network operates on the 3.5GHz spectrum and speeds of around 700Mbit/s have been reached. 

South Africa has started testing the 5G network in certain parts of the country. In Vilakazi Street, Soweto, a partnership between Samsung and Comsol has started testing 5G as a live pilot.

This will be for restaurants situated on Vilakazi Street; visitors and local residents around the area should achieve speeds of around 1.8Gbps for each user. It’s free to use in the area until the end of the year. (Source)

5G is on the way and in some cases, already in certain parts of the world. The big question is: will Africa notice?

Huge costs

5G still has a long way to go to make an impact in Africa.

Not to mention the huge costs involved… Infrastructure will have to be changed; roads will have to be dug up. Older infrastructure will have to be replaced with 5G infrastructure. In Africa, this will all take time. Network operators will have to share the costs of building the infrastructure. (Source)

South Africa already struggles with some of the highest mobile phone costs in the world so at the moment, most consumers are more interested in saving money than in what 5G has to offer.

Newer phone models will have to be released so that consumers can use 5G.

In countries such as South Africa which is struggling to rise from a recession, R20 000 mobile phones are long lost dreams for most digital citizens.

Future predictions for Telecommunications

Sub-Saharan Africa will have more than half a billion unique mobile subscribers by 2020.

The number of SIM connections in the region will rise to nearly 1 billion by 2020. DRC, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Tanzania – four of the most populated locations in the region –  will account for nearly half the 115 million new subscribers expected by 2020. (Source)

Until 2G and 3G is phased out in Africa to make way for LTE and 5G capacity, you can be sure that 2G is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Most countries in Africa that have mobile networks still use 2G networks.

Every MNO (Mobile Network Operator) and MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) needs to keep that in mind.

Since MNO’s and MVNO’s are in business for the people, they need to give the people what the people desire, so it would be foolish to do away with good old 2G telecommunications just yet.

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