ITU bemoans low 5G coverage in Africa


The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has revealed that the vast majority of African countries are still lagging when it comes to the deployment and accessibility of 5G technology, which is currently considered the most advanced and fastest mobile network standard available.

Recent data released by the ITU show that as of December 2023, the current coverage of 5G networks across Africa is the lowest in the world, standing at just 6%.

According to the telecom body’s ‘Mobile Network Coverage Facts and Figures 2023’ report, while the older generation of networks, 2G and 3G, are being shut down in many countries around the world, countries in Africa still have most of their population on the old technologies.

“Since commercial deployment began in 2019, 5G coverage has increased to reach 40% of the world population in 2023. The distribution, however, remains very uneven. While 89% of the population in high-income countries is covered by a 5G network, coverage remains limited in low-income countries. 

“Europe boasts the most extensive 5G coverage, with 68% of the population covered, followed by the Americas region (59%) and the Asia-Pacific region (42%). Coverage reaches 12% of the population in the Arab States region and less than 10% in the CIS region (8%) and Africa region (6%),” ITU stated in the report.

It noted that 3G coverage was at 19 percent and 2G coverage at 10 percent, adding that Africa continued to lag the world in network adoption, with 5G already at 38 percent and 4G at 52 percent.

While noting that 5G coverage has increased steadily over the last four years to reach 40% of the world population, the ITU noted that the development has been uneven as developed countries have more coverage.

Also Read: Nigeria signs global Act for adoption of 6G technology

It added that 5G enables the development of a digital ecosystem by connecting machines, objects, and devices with ultra-low latency and the potential to improve energy efficiency.

Specifically, most European operators are said to have announced plans to switch off 3G networks by December 2025, and likewise operators in the Asia-Pacific region.

“However, in some countries, the path is less clear, mainly because 2G and 3G networks retain a significant presence. This is the case notably in lower-income countries, where both technologies remain an important means of communication. In these countries, the main obstacles to 5G deployment and adoption include high infrastructure costs, device affordability, and regulatory barriers,” the ITU stated.

The ITU data may not be far from reality considering that in Nigeria, where three telecom companies have launched commercial 5G, coverage of the technology remains abysmally low at 0.83% as of August this year.

According to the data released by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), 60.3% of subscribers in the country were still on 2G as of August 2023. Telecom operators have no plans to shut down 2G and 3G, as most of their subscribers are still finding 4G and 5G devices unaffordable.

Source News Agencies