Kathy Gibson reports – A massive 1-million 5G subscriptions are going to be added every day this year, taking the total to 580-million users by the end of 2021.

Todd Ashton, vice-president and head of Ericsson South and East Africa, points out that 5G growth is running way ahead of comparable 4G growth, with incredible take-up across the globe.

In contrast to 4G, though, more than 70% of all service providers are now offering fixed wireless access (FWA) services, with 5G service providers at the forefront of FWA adoption

At the end of 2020, the GCC region had the highest average monthly data traffic rate per smartphone in the world, exceeding 18Gb.

“For Africa, 4G is still the most important opportunity and technology, but 5G is growing fast, and it is coming here,” Ashton says.

There are now 150 service providers around the world that have launched 5G, with 3,5-billion 5G subscriptions forecast by 2026.

According to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, 5G subscriptions are estimated to reach 1-billion and the price of 5G deices is coming down too. “I am convinced 5G will come to Africa faster than we currently think,” Ashton says.

In sub-Saharan Africa there is currently very little 5G penetration, and only 15% penetration for 4G. “One of the single biggest opportunities for Africa is to make the 4G and 5G penetration bigger,” Ashton adds. “You need to build the 4G layer out strongly as it is the baseline for 5G. Without 4G, 5G won’t be very helpful.”

In North America, 5G will reach 84% by 2026, and this will put such pressure on device prices that take-up will be quicker everywhere.

In sub-Saharan Africa, mobile subscriptions are continuing to grow, with mobile broadband subscriptions are predicted to increase, reaching 76% of subscriptions by 2026.

More than two-thirds of service providers in Middle East and Africa are offering fixed wireless access (FWA). “This technology has seen the highest growth in the last six month in regions with lowest levels of broadband penetration,” Ashton says. “I think this will be an important technology for Africa. For working from home and remote schooling, broadband is needed, and FWA can provide that.”

Mobile network data traffic grew 46% between the first and second quarters in 2021, with smartphones and video driving up mobile data traffic.

Sub-Sahara African countries are expected to have higher than average smartphone data growth. The average monthly usage was 2Gb at the end of 2020, but this is expected to grow about four-times.

Meanwhile, 4G networks are evolving to deliver increased network capacity and faster data speeds. There are currently 809 commercial LTE networks deployed, and 328 have been upgraded to LTE-A, while a total of 42 gigabit LTE networks have been commercially launched.

A ConsumerLab report, “The future of Urban Reality – an Africa perspective”, finds that living through the pandemic is causing consumers to prioritise differently. In the new normal, local shopping will lead the way, more online purchasing is predicted. Consumers have added 10 hours per week of online time, and 3,4 more services to the daily online activities in the new normal.

By 2025, consumers look to a future filled with opposing predictions. But they agree that convenience will come at the cost of privacy. Meanwhile, two in five express a concern for climate change and pollution, yet 74% are looking to increase their leisure travel going forward.

Three in 10 consumer expect to be fully remote working as the new norm, which is driving a change in mindset for consumers and companies around the office of the future.

One-quarter of all grocery shopping will go online. “This is driving a change in the structure of that segment of the retail industry,” says Ashton. “This offers new business opportunities, but it is also forcing us to change our habits.”

There is a divided view on how personal lifestyle choices will change by 2025, but some of the predictions include:

* Two in three will turn to e-learning;

* One in three believe they will mainly use car sharing;

* One in two would prefer to get an autonomous car;

* One in two expect to buy locally-produced products;

* One in three say that will refrain from flying for leisure; and

* One in two think entertainment to be more online.

People living in big cities and smaller towns have different priorities, Ashon adds.

“The same things are important but at different levels. City dwellers want to lead healthier lives and individual will practice mindful loving to a greater extent.

“In the towns, people want to have a steady job and many will need a second or third job.”

Privacy is a big issue. “The adoption of doing things online has gone crazy, but it has come with concerns, particularly around privacy,” Ashton says.

“In the online population, 82% believe that life in 2025 will become more convenient. But almost as many believe that, as online services become more pervasive and widely used, issue around privacy will also rise.”