Kenya’s giant telco Safaricom, as well as Nigerian and other African mobile operators lost the race to become Africa’s first 5G operator after South African mobile data only network operator Rain pipped all of them to the post.
Earlier this week, Rain announced the launch of the first 5G commercial network in South Africa, partnering with Huawei for the milestone.
Rain, which offers data only SIM cards in a South African market where data mobile costs are usually high, said it is lucky to not have the advantage of a 2G or 3G legacy, according to Forbes.
Instead, the South African mobile network wants to leverage its 4G rollout as it incorporates Africa’s first 5G network.
The announcement, made at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain on February 26, saw Rain chair Paul Harris tell a media briefing that the 5G network “gives Africa that opportunity to leapfrog in technology.”
Apart from South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria have also been mulling the rollout of 5G in Africa. The three countries have regularly kept pace with past rollouts of 3G and 4G.
In December of last year, Safaricom unveiled what it termed as an innovative network technology aimed at enhancing coverage across Kenya.
The network tech was seen as a trial run as Safaricom prepared to launch 5G services.
African telco experts had met in Nairobi early in 2018 to discuss the rollout of 5G on the continent. The new generation service was expected to become available to African consumers beginning 2020.
5G enhances the qualities of 4G, which made it possible for mobile communications to happen purely on the internet. The 4G network also allows for the accommodation of more internet subscribers per given radius, thus making the accomodation of hotspots in crowded areas easier.
This standard makes internet speed faster and also makes it possible to have virtual reality applications.
With 5G set to improve on the fourth generation standard, the tech frontier is set to be propelled with self-driving cars and remote medical surgeries bound to become a reality.
US-China trade war
The move to launch Africa’s first 5G network service along with Huawei comes even as the USA and China continue a trade war which risk analysts have upgraded from a mere tariffs tiff to a full scale strategic superpower rivalry.
Part of the trade dispute has seen the US oppose Huawei’s efforts of developing 5G, accusing the Chinese multinational of implementing spying mechanisms in its devices.
The trade war has taken particular significance in Africa, with a recent Risk Map report by Control Risk saying Africa could yet benefit from the trade war as the world’s two superpowers position themselves to gain allies on the continent.
Whereas US remains the biggest investor in Africa, China has been increasing its stake and last year pledged a Ksh6 trillion loan to the continent.
See Also: What Kenyans value the most