There are significant business opportunities in the mobile broadband space in building an ecosystem of accessible mobile devices to support user migration to 4G and 5G cellular network technology. This was the message that emerged from the 5th Huawei Africa Mobile Broadband Meeting, which took place at the Africacom Africa Tech Festival online from 9 to 12 November.
Delegates understood that the ICT industry has never been more important to society and that it is now at the forefront of social development and the restoration of economies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Connectivity is the basis of digital transformation”, said the meeting facilitator, Mohamed Madkour, vice president, Mrketing for Business and Operator Solutions at Huawei. "It is now time to address mobile connectivity, not only in terms of speed, capacity or coverage, but also in terms of accessibility, price, convenience and ecosystem value."
The event realized that, according to GSM, the number of 4G users in Africa should triple in the next five years, with population coverage increasing from 55% today to 80% in 2025.
"Universal connectivity in Africa needs proactive collaboration from all stakeholders to develop profitable businesses and also encourage investment”, Says Mohamed Madkour.
Roy Zheng, Director of Business Development Abroad, one of the semiconductor manufacturers, stresses that since the pandemic, the demand for educational tablets has exploded. To meet this demand, his company was producing chipsets that make it possible to produce tablets with prices starting at US $ 48.
“The adoption of more efficient technology at a lower cost can lead to 4G,” says Roy Zheng. "We can supply chipsets for cell phones starting at $ 31, which could be the ideal basic smartphones for 4G migration."
At the meeting, Lin Ranhao, CEO of the smartphone and tablet maker Tele 1, said that over the next few years, the fastest growth of the 4G user base will likely come from Africa.
Lin Ranhao reiterated that Africa has many 2G users waiting to switch to 4G, but that, despite the ready infrastructure, 4G penetration is still relatively slow. Suggesting ways to resolve this, Ranhao made an analogy with China, which encouraged the production and purchase of electric vehicles through subsidies.
“If converting from 2G to 4G is such an urgent task for operators, we must adopt a more proactive strategy and lead this process through subsidies. After all, bundling operator plans with subsidized devices is common practice around the world. ”
Ranhao said subsidy programs combined with competitively priced entry-level devices would lower the cap for first-time smartphone buyers, accelerate 4G migration and open up great opportunities for business and human development.
"The demand and supply sides are important pillars of the mobile broadband business ”, defends Mohamed Madkour. “Infrastructure and spectrum represent the supply side, while services and the ecosystem are the demand side. We can boost consumer business by showing the value of partnerships in accessible device ecosystems and content services. "