By Krantz Mwantepele
Hardly before the 4G LTE network has gained ground in Tanzania, 5G technology is hot on heels (4G LTE was launched in 2018). Going by world mobile trends, Tanzania is likely not to be left behind in these developments. Already, 5G platforms have been launched in South Africa and trials have been done in Nigeria, Gabon, Uganda and Kenya.
We do not yet know when this is going to happen in Tanzania but given the worldwide technology trends, there is every reason to believe that Tanzania will be joining the bandwagon of future 5G users.
5G is fifth generation mobile platform that is not only faster than its predecessor the 4G LTE, but is also envisaged to facilitate machine-to-machine communication and Internet of Things (IoT). In other words, it will connect machines in factories minimizing human errors, ushering in greater efficiencies and ultimately cutting on operation costs.
Indeed, all the facets of human life will drastically change for good – human beings will be able to close/open doors at the comfort of their offices, cook, wash clothes and so forth. 5G will have business, infrastructure and defense applications like never before. 5G will be key to operation of driverless cars and other fancy human activities at the touch of the button.
According to GSMA, the fastest 5G networks are expected to be at least 10 times faster than 4G LTE. Some experts say they could eventually be 100 times faster. That’s fast enough to download a two hour movie in fewer than 10 seconds, versus around 7 minutes with 4G. Actual download speeds will depend on a number of factors, including location and network traffic.
GSMA in its 2020 Report says that the transition to 5G will gain momentum in the 2020s. As of June 2020, 5G was commercially available from 87 operators in 39 markets worldwide, while another 84 operators had announced plans to launch commercial 5G services.
Globally, there will be 1.7 billion mobile 5G connections by 2025, accounting for a fifth of total mobile connections. In Sub-Saharan Africa, Rain has been offering 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) in South Africa since 2019.
However, mass adoption of the technology is not imminent in the region. With significant unused 4G capacity and 4G adoptions still relatively low on average, the focus for operators in the near term will be on increasing 4G uptake.
This will involve strategies to make 4G devices more affordable and the provision of relevant digital content to drive demand for enhanced connectivity.
Is Tanzania ready?
While large telecom companies can switch to 5G overnight, the point of concern is if the regulatory framework to the effect. The other is whether Tanzania has the capacity to use 5G technology. In other words, has the companies, especially those that need Internet-of-Things (or machine-to-machine communication) fully adaptable to the 5G technology.
All these factors must be put into consideration but again, Tanzania is not an island. In my view, 5G will at first be popular with the youth of this country. Voice, data and sound are their key concerns. Very little application in relation to the Internet-of-Things and Artificial intelligence will materialize – very few companies if any have adaptability capacities for 5G.
However, technology demands technology – existence of 5G will subsequently have a pulling effect on the Internet-of-Things and. More and more companies will lean towards 5G technology.
In the meantime, there is still low uptake of 4G while 3G dominates most parts of Tanzania especially the rural areas. The mobile service providers will have some work to do. The reasoning among Tanzanians will always be so long as 4G can serve their purpose, why be bothered with 5G?
What I am trying to say here is that mobile service providers will have more work encouraging companies try out 5G while the main consumers 5G will be university students and the elite. New marketing strategies will be needed in this case.