Although purveyors of 5G technologies need to look beyond Africa’s legacy of poor power grids and communication infrastructure, governments in the region should take the lead in addressing the infrastructure solutions as it is unlikely that the relatively nascent 5G market can provide a solution on its own in the near term.
“Where African policymakers can apply best practice in a way that properly rewards their citizens and good corporate actors is to make the ground fertile for the most innovative solutions,” Ravi Suchak, VP, Public Affairs – EMEA at American Tower Corporation, told delegates at the
the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Telecom World Conference in Durban on Monday.
Suchak added that now it is not the moment to regulate all technology propositions, but “we are past the time when the infrastructure to support them needs to be enabled.”
He proposed preconditions that are needed for the benefits of 5G to take root in Africa:
- Being open to infrastructure investment from those who also stand to make a return on it: the corollary to this is to be suspicious of investment terms that seem too generous or that accrue to a far-away sovereign power.
- Experimenting and inviting innovation: this brings investment to the country as a testbed, and fosters a can-do, flexible regulatory regime that can be tightened up once 5G is enabled.
- Choosing technologies that do more than one thing: where solutions exist to drive pico- or nano-cell development and enhance the reach of the power grid, pick them.
- Demanding more from infrastructure providers: partner with those who have solutions that are not just for the 20% of your urban population who pay enormous data and voice bills and with those that have made, or are willing to make, investment in smart-city know-how, rural broadband solutions, and long-lived, ruggidized solutions that are geared to the African market.
- Leapfrogging policy decisions and technology: draw on pioneering policymaking to make the case for greater antenna density that is at the heart of realizing 5G.
“If there is anything left to tell African policymakers after we have all proffered our advice, it is to be bold, demanding and to remain ambitious,” said Suchak.
The immediate benefit of 5G technology includes the quicker deployment of broadband services with fibre-like speeds.