Telecoms operators migrate from 2G as global 5G connections hit 1b
• Nigeria to auction two new licenses in 19 days in Abuja
Although the Fifth-Generation (5G) network is new, subscriptions are expected to reach one billion globally by the end of 2022 and gross the five-billion mark by 2028.
Ericsson, which disclosed this, noted, however, that for Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and other sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries, 4G will continue to be the main contributor to new connections up to 2028, accounting for more than half of all mobile subscriptions at that time.
Ericsson, a Swedish telecoms firm, in its November Mobility Report, released yesterday, observed that while SSA’s economy is projected to be one of the fastest-growing regions globally, sustaining growth in the telecoms industry, legacy networks still dominate.
According to the report, 2G connections still account for about half of the total subscriptions, but these are projected to decline as service providers migrate subscribers to 4G and 5G.
This news is coming as Nigeria prepares to auction two fresh lots of 100MHz in the 3.5GHz spectrum band for 5G for two more operators. Precisely, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said Lots A (3400-3500MHz) and Lot C (3600-3700MHz) are opened for fresh bidders. The auction, which will be held on December 19, will take place in Abuja.
Already, the December 2021 earlier auction produced MTN Nigeria and Mafab Communications as winners. While MTN has rolled out 5G services in some localities in Lagos and targets Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Kano, Owerri and Maiduguri in the next phase, all eyes are on Mafab not to abuse its five months extension, which ends in January for its much-awaited 5G launch. Mafab was granted a five-month extension in August by the NCC.
MEANWHILE, Ericsson said despite economic challenges, the SSA’s economy is projected to be one of the fastest growing regions globally, sustaining growth in the telecom industry.
Accordingly, it said with the COVID-19 pandemic becoming a lesser concern, network investments are shifting focus from reliable connectivity for social and economic sustenance to increasing coverage and capacity, especially for mobile broadband connections.
In the region, Ericsson claimed that 2G connections are still accounting for about half of the total subscriptions but these are projected to decline as service providers migrate subscribers from legacy 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.
Additionally, the report said that the availability of a wide range of 5G devices at attractive price points will drive uptake of 5G subscriptions, adding that by the end of 2028, there will be around 270 million 5G subscriptions forecast in the region, accounting for 31 per cent of total mobile subscriptions.
It pointed out that mobile financial services continue to gain momentum as mobile connectivity rises, with service providers extending their propositions from basic transfers and merchant payments to remittances, insurance and other more sophisticated services.
Ericsson said an additional driver for growth has been a decisive shift to digital payments in many markets as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Swedish firm noted that despite its early stage, the 5G journey has begun in SSA in the more mature markets such as South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, adding that 5G subscriptions are projected to constitute around 14 per cent of all mobile subscriptions by the end of 2028.
According to it, Middle East and North Africa service providers’ investment in 4G is expected to result in over 60 per cent of subscriptions in the region being 4G in 2028. Similarly to SSA, service providers are migrating their subscribers from legacy networks, and the growth in 4G and 5G will continue at pace. 5G is forecast to be the strongest-growing segment as service providers explore various service offerings requiring high bandwidth and low latency.
The report noted that the next-generation network is tipped to open new opportunities for smart cities, businesses, healthcare, manufacturing and autonomous vehicles.
“In the manufacturing industry, 5G offers manufacturers the chance to build smart operations and take advantage of technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, augmented reality for troubleshooting, and the Internet of Things.
“From a global perspective, the report indicates service providers continue to deploy 5G, with 228 having already launched commercial 5G services globally. In addition, the deployment of 5G standalone networks also continues, with around 35 service providers having deployed or launched 5G standalone in public networks.
“The most common 5G services launched by service providers for consumers are enhanced mobile broadband, fixed wireless access (FWA), gaming and some AR/VR-based services.
“5G subscriptions grew by 110 million during the third quarter to around 870 million, and that number is expected to reach one billion by the end of 2022,” Ericsson noted.