5G poised to be fastest-growing subscription type in sub-Saharan Africa

26th January 2024

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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Fifth-generation (5G) technology is set to be the fastest-growing subscription type in sub-Saharan Africa between 2023 and 2029, when 85% of the global population will have 5G coverage access.

The latest Ericsson Mobility Report forecasts that 5G subscriptions in the region will increase 60% a year over the next six years, from 11-million in 2023 to 180-million by the end of 2029, and account for 16% of total connections at that time.

Comparatively, the November 2023 edition of the report shows that total mobile subscriptions in sub-Saharan Africa will expand at 3% a year from 940-million in 2023 to 1.1-billion in 2029.

The report estimates that global 5G subscriptions are forecast to increase by more than 330%, from 1.6-billion to 5.3-billion, between the end of 2023 and 2029.

“5G coverage is forecast to be available to more than 45% of the global population by the end of 2023 and 85% by the end of 2029,” says Ericsson VP and head of Global Customer Unit MTN and Customer Unit MTN Africa at Ericsson Middle East and Africa Hossam Kandeel.

North America and the Gulf Cooperation Council are expected to have the highest regional 5G penetration rates by the end of 2029 at 92%, and Western Europe is forecast to follow at 85% penetration.

“In the latest edition of the Ericsson Mobility Report, it is found that sub-Saharan Africa is poised to remain the region with the highest growth in total mobile data traffic in the forecast period,” says Kandeel.

This growth will be driven by the expansion of fourth-generation (4G) network coverage across the continent and the increasing affordability of data and smartphones.

By 2029, 4G subscriptions will account for 49% of the total, as access to lower-priced smartphones and data services increases across the region; however, second-generation (2G) subscriptions will maintain a significant share of total subscriptions at 27%, mainly owing to the region’s largely rural population.

“The telecom sector in sub-Saharan Africa remains resilient as connectivity has become a necessity for voice and data communication, as well as for enabling services such as banking,” Kandeel comments, adding that the driving forces behind the growth in the region include a positive economic outlook and forward-thinking regulatory measures for building out network coverage.

In addition, service providers in sub-Saharan Africa are also exploring additional offerings on mobile platforms, such as health, education and ecommerce.

Amid the need to meet Africa’s increasing broadband demands, fixed-wireless access (FWA) is emerging as a pivotal technology, with several key African markets, including South Africa, Angola, Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe, having already launched 5G FWA services.

This shift can be attributed to its cost effectiveness, rapid deployment capabilities and inherent flexibility.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor



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