This is according to the Africa Digital Outlook 2019 report from market research firm Ovum.
The research, which looks at the state of Africa’s telecommunications market, found data revenue on the continent will more than double in the next four years, from $14.91 billion in 2019 to $31.42 billion in 2024, growing at a significantly faster rate than voice calling.
However, due to the overall growth in the mobile market and continued relevance of voice calling for many customers, some major African operators, such as Airtel and MTN, will continue to see growth in mobile voice revenue, notes Ovum.
The first use case for 5G is for FWB. Comsol, a wholesale provider in South Africa, says it plans to launch commercial 5G-based FWB services in 2019. Vodacom and MTN are also preparing to deploy 5G in South Africa. Vodacom said in August 2018 that it had already launched Africa’s first commercial 5G service, for two enterprise customers in Lesotho.
But 3G and, increasingly, LTE will power the growth of mobile broadband in Africa for the coming few years. The number of mobile 3G subscriptions on the continent will rise from 456.6 million at end-2018 to 697.6 million in 2023, according to Ovum forecasts (see Figure 4). LTE subscriptions will increase at a faster rate than 3G subscriptions, with the number of LTE subscriptions in Africa rising from 50.5 million at end-2018 to 271.6 million at end-2023.
Ovum expects mobile 5G services to be launched in Africa by 2021, but the number of mobile 5G subscriptions on the continent will initially be small, rising to 5.9 million at end-2023.
Research by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI), a nonprofit organization, shows that mobile broadband is less affordable in Africa than in the comparable low- and middle-income regions of Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2017, only four African countries – Egypt, Mauritius, Nigeria, and Tunisia – met A4AI’s “1 for 2” target, which is that a 1GB prepaid mobile broadband plan should be priced at 2% or less of average monthly income. The “1 for 2” target has also been adopted by the UN’s Broadband Commission. More positively, mobile broadband prices are declining in Africa as well as in the other regions studied by A4AI.
Higher broadband penetration is associated with improved economic growth, and it should be in the interests of the industry and governments to address cost barriers to broadband growth.