Local 5G adoption will spark innovation in SA, says Ericsson

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Mikael Bäck, corporate officer for Ericsson’s Group Function Technology Group.
Mikael Bäck, corporate officer for Ericsson’s Group Function Technology Group.

The adoption of 5G technology is going to spark an unprecedented wave of innovation in South Africa, a senior member of the technology leadership team at Ericsson tells ITWeb.

Mikael Bäck, corporate officer for Ericsson’s Group Function Technology Group, says SA is ready to transition to 5G technology, and its strong entrepreneurial spirit will be an advantage.

However, he cautions it may take “a couple of years more” before full transition happens.

He says 5G technology adoption in SA and the rest of the continent will be heavily influenced by spectrum allocation from the regulators.

“I think there is no reason why Africa shouldn’t be ready for 5G. If you look at South Africa, its large population is good for technology adoption. When it comes to innovation, creating applications and an ecosystem, SA has a good climate, a strong entrepreneurial spirit. I think you will see a lot of companies being formed around 4G and 5G technologies notes.

“What we are doing is enabling a lot of innovation to happen and many of them are not yet invented; we don’t even know what will be invented. There is a new generation coming out of universities that will do things that we have never seen before.”

According to Bäck, 5G technology is set to be the catalyst in the way business and society work. He says countries are already in preparatory phase to ensure a rapid and comprehensive adoption of 5G technology.

For Africa, 5G is expected to contribute an estimated $5.2 billion (R67 billion) to the gross domestic product (GDP) in Sub-Saharan Africa, and $970 million (R14 billion) in tax revenue by 2034.

This is according to an economic study conducted by the GSM Association, which reveals that releasing 5G millimetre wave (mmWave) capacity will create global economic expansion valued at $565 billion. This figure will represent 2.9% of global GDP growth by 2034.

Bäck attended the World Economic Forum on Africa this week in Cape Town and tells ITWeb that 5G technology has the capacity to transform industries into modern entities that will match up with international standards.

“5G can transform the coal industry and transportation industry by tracking goods and connecting cars. “We will also start to see interest when it comes to manufacturing in replacing old systems to make manufacturing more modern.

“We have seen more of these kinds of solutions in countries like the US, South Korea and Germany, and less in Africa, and I think there is still more to be done.”

Bäck adds that despite the challenges that will come with 5G adoption, overall it will have positive impact on the continent.

“There will be challenges just like all transformation, just like there were challenges with the earlier industrial revolution, like when the introduction of the railroad happened. It was difficult to see what jobs will be replaced at the time; it is the same with 5G.

“I think as with all transformation, there are certain parts that we know but also difficult things to predict exactly how they will play out.”

Turning to the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), Bäck comments it will impact the transition of society in varied ways.

“The good thing about 4IR is that it will be able to bring in jobs, better education and agriculture, making a country like South Africa more competitive in the world.”

He explains that 4IR will particularly transform the demand side and the value chain, supply side of the food-scarcity equation, using technology to address the real needs of consumers.

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