In February of this year, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies set forth a five-year plan for South Africa’s telecommunications companies to deploy 5G networks nationwide, including remote areas. The objective behind this plan is to reduce data prices, provide affordable and fast internet access to all citizens, and promote the development of new technologies in the country.
However, the severe power cuts that South Africa experienced this year could hinder the achievement of this goal, potentially affecting the country’s economy, innovation, and competitiveness. Reabetswe Motsamai, the marketing and communications manager at MakwaIT Technologies, emphasizes the importance of public-private partnerships to ensure that the rollout timeline is met.
If the deployment of 5G is disrupted, South Africa will miss out on the benefits of high-speed connectivity, increased data capacity, and low latency that these networks offer. South Africa already lags behind other countries in terms of technological advancements and competitiveness, ranking 60th out of 63 countries.
On the other hand, increased 5G penetration has the potential to drive the development of new products, services, and business models. Faster communication, collaboration, and access to information facilitated by 5G networks can enhance the productivity of businesses in the country, ultimately contributing to much-needed economic growth.
Motsamai refers to the Digital Africa: Technological Transformation for Jobs report, stating that the ongoing delays in 5G deployment hinder efforts to address social and economic challenges such as poverty, unemployment, and inequality in South Africa. Rather than being a roadblock to innovation, the electricity crisis should be viewed as an opportunity for collaboration.
Effective cooperation between the government and the private sector is essential in creating an enabling environment for technology to thrive. Motsamai suggests that the government should work alongside mobile network operators and stakeholders to develop and implement policies and regulations that support 5G infrastructure deployment and improve network quality.
Improving network quality and reducing the cost of 5G rollout can be achieved by hosting core 5G components in the national cloud. This approach would not only benefit network performance but also enable mobile broadband access to the public at a lower cost.
Vodacom SA echoes these sentiments, highlighting the potential of 5G technology to free up network capacity from LTE bands. To make South Africa a hub for productivity and innovation, the country needs to prioritize the correct policies and form appropriate partnerships.
The successful deployment of 5G networks in South Africa will be critical for its future development and competitiveness. It is imperative to overcome the challenges posed by power cuts and work towards creating a supportive environment that fosters technological advancement and economic growth.