Africell has been given Sierra Leone’s first 5G spectrum allocation in a big step towards the launch of 5G services in the country. By allocating 5G spectrum to Africell, Sierra Leone has taken the lead on a continent where, to date, 5G frequencies have been assigned to operators in only seven countries.
5G promises to optimise digital connectivity and deliver ultra-fast data to homes and businesses in sub-Saharan Africa, an environment in which it is often difficult to install fibre internet cables. 5G also offers a powerful platform for data-hungry activities such as streaming, computing, analytics and storage. Spectrum is a critical resource in mobile telecommunications as it determines the speed and capacity of an operator’s network. Higher band frequencies are required for 5G. The decision by the regulator in Sierra Leone to grant Africell 5G-level frequencies means that the company can now develop 5G connectivity with a view to launching it commercially within a year.
Africell has already pioneered 4G coverage and mobile money services in our operating markets. Receiving 5G spectrum in Sierra Leone is a big milestone. We can now activate a long-term 5G strategy based on making 5G useful and accessible while prioritising trusted and secure network technology.Ziad Dalloul, CEO and Chairman, Africell
The gradual roll-out of 5G in Africa compared to other regions reflects obstacles including a lack of affordable 5G-enabled devices, the high cost of base stations and backhaul technology, and unreliable power. Digital literacy is also a challenge. According to the GSMA, 60% of adults in Africa lack a connection to the internet; and of those connections, 4G service accounts for only 25%. In this context, advancing 5G requires investment in infrastructure and education, as well as creative thinking about how to put 5G-enabled devices into the hands of more people – including those with lower incomes.
For emerging economies like Sierra Leone, 5G can unlock vital additional productivity in sectors which drive economic growth and social development such as agriculture, mining and healthcare. By allocating this spectrum, we are inviting Africell to start preparing for a wider rollout of 5G in Sierra Leone which will help to transform these sectors.Daniel Kaitibi, Director of PURA, Sierra Leone’s telecommunications regulator
The expansion of 5G telecommunication in Africa depends on governments, investors and operators working together to resolve the most critical challenges. Fast and flexible financing is an essential condition if operators are to invest at scale in the required technologies, and governments need to continue streamlining regulations and approval systems to allow for efficient roll-out.
5G capabilities have the potential to bridge the digital divide, build resilience and transform Africa’s fledgling digital economy. The granting of the 5G spectrum to Africell for trial is an important step for Sierra Leone’s digital ecosystem.Hon Mohamed Rahman Swaray, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Information and Communications
Africell’s 5G footprint first took shape in Angola, where it activated its 5G network in July 2022, revealing an unprecedented download speed of over 1 gigabit per second – almost 15 times faster than the typical 4G download speed. Africell’s 5G network in Angola is powered by Nokia equipment.