African telecommunications experts are meeting in Nairobi to chart the continent’s path towards the next generation of ultra-high speed Internet technology, commonly known as 5G.
The 5G services are expected to become available to consumers beginning 2020.
The global ICT industry, however, needs to set standards and harmonise regulations associated with the technology.
Delegates from the public and private sector at the Sub-Sahara Spectrum Management Conference are discussing policy surrounding the technology, as well as its potential impact on the continent.
Another conference slated for next year will see the global community decide which frequencies ought to be used to deploy the new technology.
There are fears that without the right policies Africa may be left behind the rest of the world, further exacerbating inequality in access to technology.
“In particular, we must guard against the potential of 5G widening further the digital divide that already exists in our countries. Secondly, we note that 5G is perhaps gaining traction faster than was anticipated and as experts, we must ensure that 5G does not create internet connectivity chasms between Africa and the rest of the world,” said Information Cabinet secretary Joe Mucheru in a speech read on his behalf by PS Sammy Itemere.
5G is the next evolution in wireless connectivity. The ultra-fast Internet is expected to provide exponentially faster speeds than its predecessor, 4G, and will underpin a new connected era where devices as diverse as light bulbs, electricity meters, water sensors, and cars will be linked up to the web.
The discussions on 5G are part of a broader debate on how African countries can best manage spectrum, to increase technology access. Communications Authority director general, Francis Wangusi, said that the formula to ensure the accessibility of 5G technology will need to include cheap, compatible devices.
Operators rolling out 4G services have in the past faced difficulties as the number of devices that could support the technology were initially limited in the market.