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Affordable Devices a Big Opportunity in Driving 4G Migration in Africa

4G penetration is still relatively slow in Africa.

There are significant business opportunities in the mobile-broadband space in building an ecosystem of affordable mobile devices in Africa to support user migration to 4G and 5G cellular network technology. According to GSM, the number of 4G users in Africa is expected to triple in the next five years, with population coverage increasing from 55% today to 80% in 2025.

While speaking at the 5th Huawei Africa Mobile Broadband Salon that was held online during the Africacom Africa Tech Festival from 9th to 12th November in Johannesburg, South Africa, Lin Ranhao, CEO of smartphone and tablet maker Tele 1, said that during the coming years, the fastest growth of the 4G user base is likely to come from Africa.

Ranhao said Africa had many 2G users waiting to switch to 4G, but that despite ready infrastructure, 4G penetration is still relatively slow. Suggesting ways to resolve this, Ranhao drew an analogy with China, which was encouraging the production and purchase of electric vehicles through subsidies.

“If the conversion from 2G to 4G is such an urgent task for carriers, we should take a more proactive strategy, and drive this process through subsidies. After all, to bundle carrier plans with subsidised devices is common practice all over the world.”

Mohamed Madkour, Vice President, Carrier Business Marketing and Solutions for Huawei, said universal connectivity in Africa needs proactive collaboration from all stakeholders to develop profitable businesses and also encourage investment.

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“Connectivity is the foundation for digital transformation,” says Madkour. Adding that mobile connectivity should be addressed not just in terms of speed or capacity or coverage, but also in terms of ecosystem accessibility, affordability, convenience and value.

Ranhao then noted that subsidy programmes combined with competitively priced entry-level devices would lower the threshold for first-time smartphone buyers, accelerate 4G migration and open up vast opportunities for business, and for human development.

Delegates heard that the ICT industry had never been more important to society, and that it was now at the forefront of social development and restoring economies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roy Zheng, Overseas Business Development Director for one of the semiconductor maker, said that since the pandemic, the demand for education tablets had exploded. To meet this demand, his company was producing chipsets that enable the production of tablets priced from USD$48.

“The adoption of more effective technology with lower cost can drive 4G adoption,” said Zheng. “We are able to provide chipsets for mobile phones priced from USD$31, which could be the ideal entry-level smartphones for 4G migration.”

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