Ngcaba: Will Africa's telecoms be ready to deploy 5G?

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Andile Ngcaba, president of the FTTH Council Africa.
Andile Ngcaba, president of the FTTH Council Africa.

The critical question many are asking is whether the African continent's telecommunications industry will be ready to deploy 5G, says Andile Ngcaba, president of the FTTH Council Africa.

Speaking to an audience of some 300 attendees at the opening of the 7th annual Fibre to the Home (FTTH) Council Africa Conference in Cape Town yesterday, Ngcaba emphasised the importance not only of quality in infrastructure and rollout, but in the pace of the paperwork behind the enablement of 5G.

"5G is no longer regarded as a spectrum-based network, but rather a platform that is scalable, segmentable and designed for the Internet of things. The speeds it will achieve are unprecedented - latency is expected to be 1ms," he said.

Ngcaba said the infrastructure being built today is preparing for 5G rollout in the future. In 2019, the World Radiocommunication Conference will make a decision as to the standards for the frequencies to be used for 5G. The speed, reach and quality of 5G services will depend on governments and regulators supporting timely access to the right amount and type of spectrum, and the right conditions.

"We need to ensure policy, legislation and regulation move at the same speed as the technological developments themselves. As industry, we commit to work with the South African government, with Salga, and with other African governments to ensure not only the infrastructure, but any enabling policies and legislation, is ready, so we can move quickly into the next generation of technology," he said.

Impact on economic future

Guest speaker at the conference was telecommunications and postal services minister Siyabonga Cwele, who said ultra-high-speed broadband infrastructure will determine the economic future of our cities and regions.

Telecoms and postal services minister Siyabonga Cwele.
Telecoms and postal services minister Siyabonga Cwele.

Cwele identified two major challenges facing SA on its road to 5G.

"The first challenge is access by the operators. This will be managed by the Rapid Deployment Policy, which will streamline permissions and access by network operators to enable a faster rollout of services.

"The second is skills. To be able to progress to 5G, we first need to stimulate skills and innovation. You cannot even think of a smart city if you cannot first encourage and facilitate innovative development."

The FTTH Council Africa used the conference as a platform to announce it's rebranding to FTTX Council Africa. FTTX effectively means fibre to more than just the home - the X implies to anywhere, everywhere.

Themed "Tomorrow is Now", the first day of the conference focused on a range of topics, including the benefits and challenges of FTTH rollout on the African continent, getting infrastructure-ready for rollout of the next generation of mobile networks, and the importance of regulation and cyber security to the success of that next stage.

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