What Tanzania needs to do to adopt 5G tech

Sunday September 12 2021
5G pic
By Gadiosa Lamtey

Dar es Salaam. Adoption of 5G network in Tanzania is still in its infant stages as technology experts devise innovative ways to roll out the advancement.

However, despite the massive opportunities both economically and socially offered by the Fifth Generation (5G) network, telecoms experts say concerted efforts between the private sector and government will see the success of this leap, mostly due to the high cost of deploying the technology and the higher costs of its phones.

This was shared during the latest virtual Corporate Unwind event organized by SmartLab in Dar es Salaam and attended by some of the top experts in the technology ecosystem. The event aimed at assessing Tanzania’s readiness to adopt 5G.

A report by Ericsson, a Swedish networking and telecommunications company published recently shows that Sub-Saharan Africa was expected to be the region with the lowest adoption of the 5G mobile phone technology over the next five years. This view is based on the slow uptake of the new technology in different parts of the continent, with only Kenya and South Africa having fully rolled out 5G network.

While dissecting the topic, the experts said that 5G comes with a host of positive effects such as speed and quality delivery of tech-based services – an improvement to earlier 2 and 3G versions. It was also pointed out that it was the people’s willingness to migrate to 5G that would determine whether Tanzania achieves this feat or not.

Mobile network operators and the government were all of the view that despite Tanzania’s readiness to adopt 5G network there were a number of impediments that must be addressed.

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Listing some of the benefits of 5G, Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) Tele-Traffic Management head Sadath Kalolo said: “5G will enable the smooth transition to digital economy our government is currently aiming for. To achieve this goal, a fast and high quality network is needed.”

Mr Kalolo also pointed at the need to review some policies and regulations so that they could align with international standards and also ensure everything was transparent to consumers and service providers.

“A show of the government’s readiness for this digital shift and adoption of faster technology is reduction of taxes on imported smartphone devices and gadgets for connectivity,” he said. Mr Kalolo added that 5G network required a number of towers and sites due to its nature of reaching small metres compared to 4G. As such, he said that the regulator was required to make licences much more available by removing all obstacles.

On the other hand, director of Digital Services at Vodacom Tanzania, Mr Nguvu Kamando, said that operators were ready for 5G, however, he highlighted the requirement for massive investment in order to have good coverage.

Mr Kamando touched on the positive outcomes of 5G by stating that various innovations would have more visibility, giving an opportunity for tech enthusiasts to expand their creativity base.

Tigo Tanzania chief Business officer John Sicilima raised a more practical question on the adoptability of 5G, stating that it was not just an issue of operators alone it required Public Private Partnership (PPP).

He also talked about the need for a good regulatory framework to ensure systemic adoption of the technology.

Mr Sicilima said that 5G has a huge impact especially to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) because they need Information Communications Technology (ICT) that can create software to improve their business and also allow innovators to innovate without limitations.

However, the director of Technology and Operations from Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL), Mr Cecil Francis, said the government should talk to operators to not only heavily invest in the technology but also ensure that the market is ready.

“A lot is needed before we can start implementing plans for 5G. We need to have a market that understands what 5G is,” he said.

The head of Performance Engineering at Helios Towers, Mr Frank Noel, looked at the impact of technology in the health and agriculture sector. He said advanced technology could enable doctors in remote areas to conduct surgery assisted by other doctors from around the world virtually.

“The challenge is we need more sites and towers to accommodate the frequency. With previous generations you could put a tower far away, but not with 5G. It has limitations in terms of metres,” he said, adding that the demand for technology will increase and there is no choice but to increase investment.

Sharing similar comments, Helios Tower Projects director Amani Keenja said Tanzania was always ready for technology, acknowledging that there will be challenges but that should not stop us from achieving intended goal.