A recent explanation by Safaricom CEO, Peter Ndegwa, gave insight into why African telcos have been slow/reluctant to roll out 5G network. According to Ndegwa, the high cost of 5G-compliant phones has been a major impediment.
He added that it does not make economic sense to launch a 5G network on a commercial scale when there are not enough mobile devices capable of receiving it.
Whereas telecom operators around the world have long rolled out 5G network since 2019, deployment of the fifth-generation network across Africa has been very slow. As a matter of fact, only 6 African countries have so far launched the network, according to checks by Business Insider Africa. And even at that, most of these launches are not even commercial in scope.
The current penetration of the 5G network in Africa is so low, such that ICT experts have projected only about 20 million African users would be using it in the next 5 years. Apparently, this is very abysmal for a continent with a population of over 1 billion people.
Meanwhile, an industry expert recently revealed what might be a major impediment to the rollout of the superfast network. According to the Chief Executive Officer of Safaricom Peter Ndegwa, the high cost of 5G-compliant phones is a major impediment.
“Until handsets that can receive 5G are at a sufficient scale from an individual mobile perspective, there isn’t a big need to have lots of sites that offer 5G. 5G-enabled devices are still very expensive and that’s one of the reasons why we are focusing more on the 4G side and leaving 5G to serve the homes versus your mobile internet,” Business Daily quoted the CEO to have said.
Indeed, it will not make much economic sense for African telcos to go ahead and roll out the 5G network on a commercial scale if their customers lack access to phones with the capacity to use it.
On the other hand, you can’t help but sympathize with African mobile phone users, many of whom would love to have faster internet but cannot afford the cost of upgrading their phones; amid difficult economic challenges plaguing the continent.
The average price for a 5G compliant phone is $859. This is a lot of money for a continent where the highest minimum wage per month is $432.