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There is no fourth industrial revolution without 5G

Read time 2min 30sec
Nicolas Blixell, VP at Ericsson for MEA.
Nicolas Blixell, VP at Ericsson for MEA.

The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) may be a hot topic but without 5G, it simply isn’t possible.

Describing 5G as the foundation of everything 4IR is about, Nicolas Blixell, VP at Ericsson for MEA, believes 4G cannot cope with all of the opportunities that come along with 4IR.

“If you don’t have 5G, you don’t have the fourth industrial revolution.”

Blixell was chatting to ITWeb at AfricaCom 2019, which took place in Cape Town this week.

“5G is a totally different ball game. No matter what we want to do, this is where the world is going,” he noted.

Blixell’s colleague, Chafic Traboulsi, VP and head of networks for Ericsson MEA, agrees. “5G was designed as a technological advancement that totally transforms connectivity.”

In delivering very high speeds and very high rates of service, 5G offers the level of connectivity needed to take advantage of 4IR.

Discussing how to make the move from 4G to 5G, Traboulsi explained what many of us already know: Africa is a very complex and very specific market. Given the sheer size of the continent and how widely dispersed everyone is, this presents a range of infrastructural and access issues.

“Put simply, 5G is not going to happen across Africa today,” Traboulsi said. Obviously, there are plans to roll it out in larger cities – it’s already happening in some places – and we will start to see 5G being used more broadly in the near future, he continued.

What we mustn’t forget, noted Traboulsi, is that 5G can be deployed in different ways and some of these alternative strategies could prove promising in Africa. “You don’t have to go out and put big radios everywhere. You can even run 5G on existing radios.”

Speaking to the issue of regulation and spectrum allocation, Traboulsi stressed the success of 5G is intimately linked with the regulatory policies of the country. “Getting this right is about making sure all parties understand the link between the advancement of the country and the telecoms network and connectivity in that region.”

We mustn’t forget that many countries across Africa still haven’t embraced and made the most of the current 4G landscape, continued Blixell. Only 7% of subscriptions in Africa today are 4G, he revealed.

“We need to first build the 4G landscape across the continent and only then can we build on that.”

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be strategising around 5G, Blixell asserted. “Everyone around the world is talking about 5G, and Africa should also be taking part in these conversations.”

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