Eva Andren, VP and head of managed services for Ericsson in the MEA region, has warned against rushing into 5G in South Africa until there is sufficient demand for the technology.
Speaking at a media briefing, Andren highlighted that while many networks are looking to get into the 5G space, investing too heavily into the technology quickly could result in a poor return on investment.
“It’s a question of timing,” explained Andren.
“If your timing is not right, you may not get the return of investment you are looking for. So you need to ask if the market is ready for it.”
Andren also highlighted that if your 5G network doesn’t have comprehensive coverage, users will be frustrated that they can’t always get the speeds they are expected.
“There can be certain areas where 5G is implemented, but then you want 5G all the time. Expectations increase quickly.”
4G remains relevant
Andren said that due to the constant technology race between competitors, mobile networks are always looking for ways to make themselves relevant in the eyes of their customers.
This, rather than potential financial benefits, is the reason that local networks have been looking into implementing 5G.
However, Ericsson believes that 5G will only become properly relevant to the mainstream market in 2024.
“5G will be relevant, but the next leverage of this technology will take a couple of years,” explained Andren.
“4G will remain the most important technology for some time.”
Andren explained that this is due to the fact that businesses have already spent significant amounts of money moving from 2G and 3G to 4G.
Therefore, Andren believes that for South Africa to jump directly into 5G with very little demand would be a mistake.
However, specific commercial implementations can still be beneficial, and Ericsson said it has been a part of such projects and implementations locally.
AI and machine learning for networks
Andren also highlighted that Ericsson is investing heavily in AI and machine learning and looking into how it can be used within networks such as those in South Africa.
“We’re giving customers a service where we can proactively ensure that the services of our sites are working properly.”
“We can detect if there are issues, and can also avoid having to visit sites as drones can instead investigate the portfolio, antennae, and more.”
Andren said that this technology would also result in increased safety for network employees, as they will not have to perform dangerous tasks like climbing towers.
“This proactively serves networks to a higher extent – bringing down operational expenses and bringing value to these networks. This is what we’re looking at implementing in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Andren said that the solution has been tested and used for half a year, and it is not yet fully deployed – but can offer great benefits to South African networks.