Cairo's Tahrir Square at night. Photo credit: Ben Mack
North Africa is not at the same readiness level for 5G as the Gulf – but that doesn’t mean it won’t be arriving in the future, says Eng. Atef Helmy, advisor to the Board of Directors at Orange Jordan.
Speaking on the sidelines of the SAMENA Telecommunications Council’s Leaders’ Summit on April 18 in Dubai, Helmy said it’s not a matter of if 5G will become widely available in North Africa, but when.
“5G is the future,” he said.
“It’s a paradigm shift. It’s a real revolution.”
However, the affordability of enough “spectrum” for 5G is a barrier, Helmy said. This, he added, is because many governments in North Africa still see the licence fees for spectrum – essentially the cost to be able to broadcast signals at a certain radio frequency – as a source of income, and that the fees are often too high and the consumer demand too low for there to be a compelling business case for telcos in the region to offer 5G services.
Another challenge, Helmy said, is there not being enough fibre in some areas – a challenge compounded by the fact some North African countries do not allow operators to invest in fibre.
“These [challenges] need to be resolved.”
Yet Helmy remains optimistic for the future of 5G in North Africa.
“Innovation is at the heart of 5G,” he said, adding North Africa is currently seeing a huge rise in the number of startups and innovative tech ideas.
This year’s edition of the SAMENA Leaders’ Summit, as with most years, was held at Atlantis, The Palm, at the top of the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. With Huawei as the main sponsor for the sixth consecutive year, this year’s theme was 5G. The event brought together CEOs from major Middle East and African operators, as well as suppliers, vendors and more – including top executives from companies across the telecommunications ecosystem from around the world. Also participating was International Telecommunication Union (ITU, a United Nations agency) Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.
As an integral part of the SAMENA Leaders’ Summit, to accelerate the large-scale deployment of 5G, Huawei hosted the “5G is ON” Forum, which served as an occasion for 5G industry partners to discuss how emerging 5G-enabled intelligent services and innovations may help telecommunications operators to identify new business opportunities, thereby enhancing prospects for achieving growth.