Ericsson talks 5G

07 April 2020

Mahomed Essof

Mahomed Essof

With 5G the main priority for for vendors and operators worldwide, African Wireless Communications caught up with Mahomed Essof, country manager at Ericsson South Africa to find out what the company's plans are in Afric

1. 5G: which African countries are Ericsson’s priorities?

The shift from basic voice to data-centric services has already happened in Africa due to ongoing investments in 3G and 4G networks which makes it evident that 5G is inevitable in Sub-Saharan Africa as a natural progression from previous technology generations. We need to consider that the 5G era will peak in the region with increase in use cases and demand for mobile internet connectivity. This means for each of our partners, the road to 5G is a unique and different journey that we embark together with them to create an ecosystem of expertise to make this technology a commercial reality considering their circumstances. As an example I can refer to our agreement with MTN South Africa, signed in November 2019 in which we are working together to identify and develop 5G use cases and applications to drive industry digital transformation as part of planning for 5G commercialization in the South African context.

2. Do you have any success stories you can share?

Absolutely. Let’s talk more about our work in South Africa as a great example. Ericsson has been a proud partner to one of South Africa’s largest mobile network providers, MTN, since the dawn of the country’s democracy in 1994. This partnership has gone from strength to strength, and both companies have grown together into the rest of the African continent as well as the Middle East. We believe that a true showing of our global scale is whether we’re able to support local companies, and our MTN partnership is a testament to this. In partnership with us, MTN was the first mobile network operator in South Africa to offer 3G connection, which helped to extend broadband access from the few to the many in SA. Also as I mentioned, in November 2019, Ericsson was selected by MTN South Africa as a 5G network modernisation vendor. It is important to note that our South African success story is not just a commercial partnership; our Connect-to-Learn programme is positively impacting South African girls in schools today. In Diepsloot, Ericsson has built an e-hub that brings together entrepreneurs, innovators and society. Just this year, we introduced robotics in the hub.

3. What have been the biggest hurdles to overcome?

First action would be the scale and availability of 4G/LTE infrastructure as the baseline on our road to 5G. Still, given the growing pressure on revenues and margins, operators, vendors and other ecosystem players will need to explore ways to ease the financial burden. Lack of affordable devices and immersive use cases, such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) is one of the obstacles to early adoption of 5G at the early stages of network deployment in the consumer segment. Also a prerequisite for preparing existing network infrastructure for 5G includes developing a framework to manage the complexity of operating multiple networks (2G, 3G, 4G and 5G) simultaneously ahead of 5G network launches. This means each of industry players need to plan for cost-effective infrastructure deployment solutions balancing their network and market aligned with their vision for growth.

4. Looking at global markets, are there any global examples that reflect what you want to achieve in Africa?

Ericsson’s end-to-end 5G Platform, across radio, core and transport networks enables operators to evolve to new 5G capabilities at a speed that matches their own business strategy, while enhancing current 4G business by reducing risk and making best use of current infrastructure. Globally, Ericsson’s network technology enables evolution to full 5G deployment through natural, step-wise implementation – one that balances investment, new revenue streams and competitiveness. With each and every one of our partners, we aim for 5G to be rolled out in the smoothest, and most efficient way possible, while meeting the key objectives of successful coexistence with 4G and continuous growth. We will apply the same approach for Africa, supporting our partners to navigate the unique complexities that they are facing.

*The latest Mobility Report was released in November 2019 followed by Q4 2019 update that was released in February 2020. The next report is due out towards end of Q2 2020.