First wave in the Gulf, second wave in Africa
The number of connections to 5G in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) will reach 263 million by 2026, says Nokia. The prediction is based on the equipment maker’s own sales and marketing intelligence and complemented by third-party analyst GlobalData and crowdsource specialist Tutela.
The 5G subscription growth will primarily be in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain, according to the The Nokia MEA Broadband Index Report. However a second wave will come when subscriber numbers in South Africa, Nigeria and North African countries swell. These events will follow the release of new spectrum, which entice more people to use high-bandwidth consumer applications and enable industrial uses.
In the GCC countries, 5G technology will dominate with the subscriber base expected to reach 64% of the total number of users and with network sliceable data traffic likely to surpass 70% by 2026, according to the study.
In Africa, 5G technology adoption will grow steadily, driven by the evolution of devices rather than applications and the industrial internet of things. The 5G spectrum allocations will catalyse interest in 5G phones in most countries. Meanwhile 4G subscribers in the Southern Africa region are projected to reach 105 million (comprising 58% of the total number of customers) by 2026 and 5G will contribute more than one-fifth of data traffic.
North African operators have seen a high demand for mobile broadband and the region is expected to have a 20% increase in total subscribers between 2022 and 2026. In Central East West Africa, today more than 60% of the total data traffic is carried by 4G. This traffic is expected to grow four times over the next four years. At the same time, 5G subscriptions are expected to account for nearly 10% of the total mobile subscribers in this period.
The study also reveals that 5G and 4G together are expected to drive more than 90% of data traffic in the Middle East and Africa. Total data traffic is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 35% in the next four years.
While there was a 40% year-on-year growth in 4G data traffic that was left standing by an accelerating 350% year-on-year growth in 5G data traffic in 2021 alone, according to Mikko Lavanti, head of mobile networks, for Nokia MEA. “Clearly there’s a pressing need for 5G networks across the region,” said Lavanti, “instant and ultra-fast 5G networks can support augmented and virtual reality and digitise sectors like energy, transport, health, manufacturing and education while providing amazing experiences to individual users.”
The Nokia MEA Broadband Index Report has data and analysis on mobile broadband subscribers, coverage, ARPU and traffic growth in the MEA region. It breaks down into sub-regions, with details on the GCC, Southern Africa, North Africa, the Middle East and Central East West Africa.