What you should know about 5G

The adoption of 5G is still low, with nations such as the US, Germany, South Korea and China being at advanced stages of commercial deployment. [iStockphoto]

5G-related activities have begun to pick up across Africa, including spectrum auctions, pilots and commercial trials, as well as efforts to develop locally relevant 5G use cases.

4G is still in infancy in Africa, accounting for about 25 per cent of connections, on average, compared to 60 per cent globally.

Affordability of devices and digital literacy remain challenges. However, this has not deterred Safaricom from launching 5G in Kenya.

According to a report by GSMA, '5G Africa: Realising the Potential' 5G will contribute $26 billion to Africa's economy by 2030 with retail, manufacturing, and agriculture among the sectors that will see the most impact.

Additionally, 5G will account for 20 per cent of mobile connections in Africa by 2030.

"Today there are commercial 5G networks in more than 10 countries and many more countries are expected to launch commercial 5G by 2025," says Angela Wamola, Head of Sub-Saharan Africa, GSMA.

GSMA predicts that 5G will add $2.2 trillion to the world economy by 2034.

The adoption of 5G is still low, with nations such as the US, Germany, South Korea and China being at advanced stages of commercial deployment.

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth generation mobile network, a new global wireless standard designed to connect virtually everyone and everything including machines, objects and devices.

It will result in a massive increase in data speeds, lower latencies (the delay between the sending and receiving information), and the capacity to carry large numbers of connections simultaneously, changing how people interact with the internet and inspiring innovation and new services.

5G can be used as an alternative to Wi-Fi depending on location and coverage. It is also beneficial in public areas, where 5G can be safer than Wi-Fi.

For users, 5G is more than just faster mobile internet, but mainly internet connectivity in many more objects than what you see today, from homes to cars and other machines.

5G operates at higher frequencies than 4G, which allows it to handle more data at once at a greater capacity and speed.

Basically, it is one of the fastest, most robust technologies the world has ever seen.

However, while 5G has been marketed as being up to 100 times faster than 4G, real-world testing hasn't proved this claim yet.

Some claim that 5G is 500 per cent faster than 4G LTE, allowing users to download a full 8K movie in a matter of seconds.

Do you need a new phone?

The big question most people have is whether they will need a new smartphone to use the network.

The answer is yes! You may need to buy a new device that supports 5G. There are already new phones and other gadgets in the market that are 5G compatible.

The journey to 5G

1979 - 1G, the first generation of telecom networks.

1991 - 2G digital networks made it possible to send messages and allowed for roaming services.

1998 - 3G enhanced mobile internet experience but its success was limited, pushing for the development of 3.5G which came with significantly improved internet experience that fueled the generation of mobile apps.

2008 - 4G network brought both voice and data services, a fast broadband internet experience, with unified networks architectures and protocols.

2009 - 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) doubled data speeds.

2019 - 5G network developed with expanded broadband wireless services beyond mobile internet to IoT (Internet of Things) and critical communications segments.

2030 - 6G network is currently under development for wireless communications technologies supporting cellular data networks and will likely be significantly faster. Experts have predicted it will likely be released by 2030. According to reports, China has already launched a 6G test satellite.


With its extended capacity and high speeds, 5G is expected to expand the mobile ecosystem and impact every industry. This could include advancements in transportation with safer self-driving cars; remote healthcare including surgeries, precision agriculture, digitised logistics and more.

The world's first telesurgery was performed in China in January 2019. The remote surgery needed four things; a patient (laboratory animal), a surgeon, a robot, and a very fast and bulletproof internet connection in the form of 5G.

Who has the best 5G network?

These are the countries with the fastest 5G network in terms of bandwidth expansion and implementation, (in no particular order): China, South Korea, Unites States, Spain, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Finland, United Kingdom and Canada.