Why Africa still faces challenges to modernizing networks

Why African nations still face challenges to modernizing networks

According to Ookla, a network intelligence and connectivity insights company, one of the key challenges across Africa in terms of network rollouts regardless of technology relate to the cost of mobile base stations, the backhaul technology that connects mobile sites to the core network, and energy supply. 

Though it is still early days for 5G across most of Africa, South Africa is leading the region having launched commercial networks in 2020.

Recent World Bank report points to the three main areas where infrastructure costs can be prohibitive in rural settings, such as the mobile base station, the backhaul technology that connects mobile sites to the core network, and energy supply.

To alleviate the challenges, operators are taking steps and looking to innovative approaches to improve the situation. For example, Orange DRC partnered with NuRAN to construct and operate 2,000 solar-powered mobile towers, with a particular focus on rural communities, which will cover at least 10 million people in rural areas.

These lower-cost “light towers,” are better suited to covering remote locations with small populations and come with significant cost savings. One of the reasons for lower costs is being powered by renewable energy solutions, particularly solar, rather than more expensive diesel generators. 

Device affordability is another issue. There are currently a few initiatives across the continent aimed at expanding connectivity to areas where it’s lacking. For instance, Google partnered with Safaricom in Kenya for a program that allows customers to pay for 4G-enabled phones in installments, while MTN Uganda reinforced a partnership with M-Kopa in March 2022 to introduce 4G smartphones on installment payment terms.

MTN also inked a partnership with M-Kopa in 2021 that facilitated the sale of more than 70,000 smartphones, financing over 2 million customers across Africa. Orange in Cote d’Ivoire launched a similar initiative in partnership with Yabx and Cofina. Yabx, a Dutch firm that offers credit across multiple countries in Africa, will provide the technology and manage the complete customer journey that will enable Cofina, an Ivorian financial institution that provides SME financing, to launch plans for Orange subscribers.

Bringing 5G devices into the African markets will be even more challenging, stated Ookla.

The company said operators continue to innovate and they are keeping a close eye on how the network deployments are progressing and the network performance end users experience.

This article was re-published by TechMetro Africa. The original content can be found here.