The African Telecommunication Union (ATU) has finalised the development of spectrum recommendations for the management of radio spectrum and to boost broadband connectivity in Africa. These recommendations are expected to enhance usage of mobile services, wireless connectivity and enhance the effective deployment of newer technologies such as 5G across the continent.
This signals a first important step at a regional level to encourage the uptake of 5G across the continent. This is after having seen 5G uptake spike in other regions of the world especially South Korea which recently has almost 13 million subscribers as of January 2021.
The draft recommendations which have been endorsed by 25 countries and representatives from the Regional Economic blocks on Friday, March 5th, also target to guide African countries in the strategic management of spectrum, support proper licensing and audit as well as general evolution of this crucial resource.
Radio spectrum is a natural, scarce and valuable resource that is currently being used for a wide range of applications, providing many economic and social benefits in the continent. As demand for spectrum continues to grow, regulators must work to meet the pressure that comes with managing the use of spectrum resourcesJohn Omo, ATU Secretary General.
Africa’s connection is today largely driven by wireless technologies which rely on spectrum. Therefore, developing the policies provide a pathway for regulators to overcome the spectrum shortage through the adoption of appropriate spectrum policies.
According to a recent GSMA report, there will be around 30 million 5G connection in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025. This will account for just 3% of the 1.8 billion 5G connections globally. This clearly shows that there is still a lot to be done for 5G adoption in Africa.
The recommendations were developed via a dedicated ATU task group under the leadership of Dr. Mohamed EL-MOGHAZI from Egypt and Mr. Dick SONO from South Africa who also serves as the Vice Chair of the Task Group. Mr. Alfred Joseph BOGERE from Uganda, Mr. Gabriel KOFFI from Cote d’Ivoire and Mr. Wilson BOKATOLA from Congo served as rapporteurs for the Task Group.
Dr. Mohamed EL-MOGHAZI, Chairman of the Task Group notes that “Spectrum licensing frameworks are a critical component of maximizing the use of spectrum resources to ensure that they enhance and expand the capacity and coverage of mobile and broadband networks for the benefit of end-users as well as to help bridge the Digital Divide,”
Kenya is among the first countries in Africa that have begun running 5G trials with the expected commercialisation of the spectrum expected to begin before the end of the year. The other countries in Sub Saharan Africa that have begun 5G trials are Uganda, Nigeria and Gabon.