[South Africa] Data shows uptick in 5G population coverage
13-04-2022 11:50:39 | by: Andrea Ayemoba | hits: 1743 | Tags:

Despite 5G disinformation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa’s 5G population coverage grew from 0.7% in 2020, to 7.5% in 2021.

This is based on data in the latest State of the ICT Sector Report, compiled by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), which shows national population coverage of the emerging technology is on the uptick.

Telcos like MTN and Vodacom used the temporary spectrum granted to mobile operators as a result of the pandemic to deploy 5G services in SA’s cities.

In the case of national population coverage for 3G, the report indicates it was at 99.9% in 2021. Coverage for 4G/LTE was at 97.7% in 2021.

The 2020 figures show national population coverage for 3G and 4G/LTE stood at 99.8% and 96.4%, respectively.

Last year’s Ericsson Mobility Report stated 5G subscriptions in Sub-Saharan Africa will represent around 10% of all mobile subscriptions by 2027, with SA expected to lead the adoption rate in the region.

5G technology is expected to grow faster than 4G, accounting for around 50% of all mobile subscriptions worldwide – covering 75% of the world’s population and carrying 62% of the global smartphone traffic by 2027, according to the Ericsson report.

First produced in 2015, the ICASA report examines performance and developments in the ICT sector, focusing on three areas regulated by the authority: telecoms, broadcasting and postal services.

According to ICASA, the findings are based on data collected over a 12-month period ending 30 September 2021, collected from secondary sources such as Statistics SA, OOKLA, as well as through a detailed questionnaire sent to relevant stakeholders.

When looking at rural population network coverage, the ICASA report found that in 2021, with respect to 2G and 3G, all provinces are at 100% coverage as reported by the licensees.

As to 4G/LTE coverage, all provinces are above 96% for the same period, it states.

Within the rural population network coverage, the report shows the Free State, Gauteng and Western Cape as having 5G coverage.

On urban population, all provinces have recorded 99% to 100% with respect to 2G, 3G and LTE coverage.

The report reads: “5G coverage in urban areas is showing a positive growth in all provinces…with KwaZulu-Natal in the lead with 20% for the same period.”

Turning to mobile cellular and smartphone subscriptions, the state of ICT report shows mobile cellular subscriptions increased from 94 million in 2020, to 103 million in 2021.

Smartphone subscriptions were 60 million in 2020 and 65 million in 2021, says the report.

A further breakdown of subscriptions shows prepaid and postpaid mobile-cellular telephone subscriptions increased by 9.3% and 5.3%, respectively, in 2021.

“For a period of seven years, the total mobile cellular phone voice subscriptions increased by 2.9%.”

ICASA’s report findings support the data released by Stats SA in its 2020 General Household Survey (GHS).

According to the 2020 GHS report, the proportion of South Africa’s households with access to only cellular phones is at 89.4% nationally.

The Eastern Cape is the highest at 96.4%, followed by Mpumalanga at 92.2%, and the lowest is Gauteng at 88.2% for the same period.

As to households with no access to either a cellular phone or landline, Limpopo is the highest at 3.2% and the lowest is Mpumalanga at 1.1% for the same period.

For households with access only to landline phones, both Northern Cape and Western Cape are the highest at 1.4% for the same period.

“The total mobile cellular phone voice subscriptions increased by 8.7% from 94 million in 2020 to 103 million in 2021. Postpaid mobile cellular telephone subscriptions for urban and rural areas increased by 5.3% and 5.4%, respectively, in 2021.”

According to ICASA, fixed-line voice subscriptions decreased in all categories; namely analogue fixed-telephone lines, ISDN voice channel equivalents, VOIP subscriptions, fixed-public payphone, as well as fixed wireless local loop subscriptions.

“Over a seven-year period, fixed-line subscriptions decreased by 14.9%,” reveals the report.

Turning to fixed-line broadband subscriptions, the report shows an increase of 20.4%, with fibre-to-the-home/building internet subscriptions increasing by 34.4% in 2021.

However, DSL internet subscription decreased by 30.2% for the same period, it notes. “For a period of seven years, fixed broadband subscriptions increased by 8.4%.”