African countries are rushing to launch 5G networks as evidenced by recent reports that Uganda and Kenya are almost ready with their 5G rollout. Safaricom, the biggest telecoms operator in Kenya was spotted testing 5G in Nairobi and reports can confirm that they have already approached the Kenyan communications authority on the matter.
Africa’s big economies are all rushing to get 5G working ahead of their competitors. South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt are all working on plans to launch 5G communications within the first quarter of 2020.
Uganda seems to have joined this group of elite African nations.
MTN Uganda is said to be working with Chinese giant ZTE to establish a standalone 5G network in the country.
These reports may show a lot of progress among African nations but the situation on the ground may not reflect these developments.
In Uganda for instance, residents still complain that 4G does not fully cover the whole country and even for those parts of the country that are said to be under 4G, the network can be terribly slow at times.
For example, on weekend, several customers accused Airtel Uganda of poor network. Airtel Uganda says it has countrywide 4G connectivity.
5G is a great technology and we should all use it at some point, but we are of the view that it is better to focus on reinforcing existing 4G networks and make sure that they provide adequate coverage to consumers. At the moment very few mobile communications equipment supports 5G and as a result, the economic and social benefits of installing 5G will be outweighed by the benefits of reinforcing existing 4G technologies. This does not mean however that ISPs should not start working on 5G.