According to the Ericsson Mobility Report released at the AfricaCom tech conference held in Cape Town this week, data traffic is expected to grow 15 times between 2015 and 2021, reaching 2 200 Petabytes.
“In sub-Saharan Africa, the dividends of connecting the unconnected through mobile broadband access and driving new services cannot be overlooked as it allows business and society to fulfil their potential and create a more sustainable future,” said Fredrik Jejdling, regional head of Ericsson sub-Saharan Africa.
The massive growth in data will be driven by the adoption of smartphones, and the report shows that the gadgets will consume 95% of mobile broadband data by 2021.
However, currently in the region of 500 million or 70% of subscriptions are GSM/EDGE, though Ericsson expects this to change rapidly as operators roll out higher speed LTE connections.
In SA, policy to make spectrum available in the key 800MHz frequency has been held up by the failure of the regulator to finalise policy rules.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa defended its position on spectrum, saying that it was being held up by the executive.
“Part of the problem is there is a spectrum policy that must be promulgated,” chief executive Pakamile Pongwana said at a recent hearing of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communication.
In comparison with developed economies, sub-Saharan Africa trails Japan, the US and South Korea which are expected to deploy 5G networks to 150 million subscribers by 2021, the report found.
Ericsson expects that by the same year 4G will make up 80% of connections in the local region as video demand drives consumption.
Data networks in the region will unlock economic growth, said Jejdling.
“Increased connectivity improves the prospect of financial inclusion for the 70% unbanked through mobile money services starting to take form across Africa. The same is true for transformation in the agriculture, healthcare and even the media industries.”