Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

4G/5G

Expensive 4G devices are keeping 2G going

Article Image
The high cost of 4G devices is still a major stumbling block keeping many Africans offline and still using 2G feature phones. That is the sentiment from a new report from Vodacom, Vodafone and Safaricom titled A lifeline, not a luxury: accelerating 4G for sub-Saharan Africa.

"There are many barriers hampering the migration to 4G, one being unaffordable 4G-enabled devices. While mobile is the primary form of access to digital services in Africa, many are still using 2G-enabled phones, with the consumer base growing rapidly," said Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub as part of the report's introduction.

In South Africa alone, Vodafone internal data estimates that 6 million 2G devices are sold every year, and about 14 million customers are still using 2G phones.

In 2020, 3G networks covered 81% of sub-Saharan Africa compared to 49% in 2014, according to GSMA data. Last year, 51% of the region was covered by a 4G network; however, many people still use 2G-enabled phones and millions of new 2G users are added every year.

Although 4G coverage is growing, the technology remains underutilized in Africa and the COVID-19 pandemic has showcased just how wide Africa's digital divide remains.

"For as long as the digital divide exists, Africa will struggle to offer scaled digital services like e-learning, e-government, e-commerce, or e-health. All of these rely on fast, videocapable, interactive and stable 4G or broadband connections. But while 2G and 3G is widespread across Africa, 4G usage lags behind," the Vodacom report said.

"Unfortunately, COVID-19 has further exacerbated the price gap between advanced and basic mobile devices, also increasing the complexity of the digital divide issue in Africa."

High cost, low uptake

It's a no-brainer that lowering the cost of devices will get more people to use smartphones. But at the current levels, smartphones remain out of reach for millions of Africans.

The Alliance for Affordable Internet estimates that a smartphone priced at $62 could cost almost 63% of the average monthly income across Africa, while a similarly priced smartphone costs only around 12% of the average monthly income in the Americas.

2G phones bought from Chinese factories at around $5-$8 are resold in Africa for $15-$25. Basic 4G-enabled phones can cost $50, and entry-level smartphones around $100.

"By optimizing all value chain aspects, we estimate we can move smartphone costs down to about US$40-42. This is clearly very far from sufficient to bridge the gap against the average US$5-8 2G phones that most people can currently afford without additional policy measures," the report's authors said.

Joosub said that for universal 4G usage to become a reality, stakeholders must address the affordability of 4G devices and connectivity, while building skills, offering financing and supporting digital startups to drive 4G demand.

"These actions will encourage user migration to 4G from older technologies, enabling operators to re-farm 2G / 3G spectrum. Driving higher 4G usage, as our research shows, will contribute significantly to unlocking broader economic growth across Africa," he added.

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub

Story

Super-app Gozem raises $5M for expansion plans

Gozem, the Francophone African super-app, has raised $5 million in a Series A round to help fund its expansion plans.

Story

African startups raise almost $4B in 2021

Africa's startup ecosystem raised almost $4 billion in 2021 according to startups deals database Africa: The Big Deal – with Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Kenya taking the lion's share.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Guest Perspectives

Story

Omdia View: October 2021

By Omdia Analysts

Across the Middle East and Africa, regulators are beginning to facilitate spectrum allocation to operators in the region for the deployment of new and innovative technology.

Story

Research Bites: Why Africans stop using mobile apps

By Chinedu Wilfred Okonkwo, Magda Huisman and Estelle Taylor

This article – in collaboration with the African Journal of Science, Technology, Innovation and Development – explores the reasons behind why Africans stop using certain mobile apps.

More Guest Perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

AfricaCom perspectives

Story

Digital inclusion as a catalyst for economic empowerment: Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu

Mastercard's Imelda Ngunzu talks to Connecting Africa about how digital payment solutions and mobile money are transforming the lives of small business owners, women and marginalized groups in East Africa.

Story

Accelerating women in STEM: In conversation with GirlCode's Tinyiko Simbine

GirlCode co-founder and CFO Tinyiko Simbine talks about why it's important to help girls and young women excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Story

How Poa Internet is unlocking meaningful connectivity in East Africa

Poa Internet's CEO Andy Halsall shares his views on what it takes to develop last-mile connectivity and get Africans online in a meaningful way.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Flash poll

All polls

Archived webinars

Meeting SME’s where they are - Building inclusive ecosystems for Africa’s small business owners

Micro and small businesses have been, and still are, the spine and lifeblood of the African economy, making up 90% of businesses on the continent.

Many of these businesses have still been operating in traditional ways and serving non-digital customers. With Covid-19 expediting the digital transformation process, businesses - big and small - have been forced to adapt to operate successfully in a more digital-first environment.

To ensure that the digitalization of Africa’s market doesn’t leave micro and small businesses behind, digital solutions must be inclusive and create business-ready environments. But how can we ensure that African SMEs become digitally enabled?

In this webinar we will share from our own experience on how to create such an environment, and the actions we took in vcita to get there, including:

  • Closing the digital literacy gap through tech inclusion 
  • Making a positive impact on local communities
  • Building the foundations for digital inclusion and small business growth in a technology-accelerated world
  • Building the foundations for digital inclusion and small business growth in a technology-accelerated world

Register Here >>

More Webinars

Sponsored video

More videos

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up


Sign Up