Ericsson yesterday released the 2022 edition of its ‘Mobility Report’ projects, where it forecasted that 5G subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa would grow from seven million in 2022 to 150 million by the end of 2028, accounting for 14 per cent of total connections at that time.
The forecast came at a time when countries across the globe were fast rolling out 5G network services to further deepen their digital transformation agenda.
In Nigeria, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) last year auctioned two lots in the 3.5GHz spectrum band and offered 5G licence to MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications. MTN has since rolled out its 5G network in few states, with plans to expand to more states.
The NCC is also in the process of awarding Airtel Networks Limited with 5G licence, after the telecom company emerged sole bidder in the current auction plan of another two lots in the 3.5GHz spectrum band, for 5G rollout.
According to the Ericsson Mobility report, in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), 2G connections still constituted about half of the total mobile subscriptions.
These were projected to decline as subscribers are migrated to 4G and 5G networks. 4G will be the main contributor to new connections up to 2028,accounting for more than half of all mobile subscriptions at that time.
“Currently, 4G represents29 per cent of mobile subscriptions in SSA, with 4G subscriptions expected to rise from 260 million in 2022 to 600 million in 2028. The monthly data traffic per smartphone in sub-Saharan Africa will increase by 26 per cent from 4.6 GB per month in 2022 to 18 GB per month in 2028,” the report said.
Analysing the report at a virtual conference, the Vice President and Head of Global Customer Unit MTN and Customer Unit MTN Africa at Ericsson Middle East and Africa, Hossam Kandeel, said: “Connectivity in Africa plays a critical role in the upliftment of the continental economy. The growth in 5G and 4G network coverage will become a major catalyst for innovation, connection, and opportunity for Africans everywhere. We are proud to be a part of this journey.”
Global 5G subscriptions remain on track to top one billion by the end of this year, and five billion by the end of 2028, despite current and developing economic challenges in many parts of the world. On 5G itself, about 110 million subscriptions were added globally between July-September 2022, bringing the total to about 870 million, Kandeel said.
According to him, “As forecast in previous reports, 5G is still expected to reach one billion subscriptions by the end of this year – two years faster than 4G did, following its launch. The statistic reinforces 5G as the fastest-scaling mobile connectivity generation.
“By the end of 2028, five billion 5G subscriptions are forecast globally, accounting for 55 per cent of all subscriptions. In that same timeframe, 5G population coverage is projected to reach 85 per cent, while 5G networks are expected to carry around 70 percent of mobile traffic and account for all contemporary traffic growth.”
The report also predicted global fixed wireless access (FWA) connections to grow faster than previously expected. FWA – the wireless alternative to wireline broadband connectivity for homes and businesses was one of the major early 5G use cases, particularly in regions with unserved or underserved broadband markets. FWA was estimated to grow at 19 per cent year-on-year through 2022 to 2028, and top 300 million connections by the end of 2028.
The report further said in the overall, mobile subscriptions were expected to top 8.4 billion by the end of 2022, and 9.2 billion by the end of 2028, adding that most subscriptions are associated with smartphones.
“At the end of 2022, 6.6 billion smartphone subscriptions are estimated, accounting for about 79 percent of all mobile phone subscriptions,” the report further said.
The latest report also highlighted the importance of reducing environmental impact. It said the telecommunications sector would have a key role to play in addressing global sustainability goals, both by reducing its own emissions and through its potential to reduce carbon emissions across other industries.
“To reduce the environmental impact, the growing data traffic needs to be managed with smart network modernisation combined with a balanced approach to network performance,” the report added.