by SAVIOUS KWINIKA
HARARE – THE rollout of 5th generation mobile networks or wireless systems, commonly known as 5G, is proving a divisive issue in Zimbabwe with entrepreneurs advocating for the country to move in line with the rest of the world ahead of deployment but government expressing unpreparedness.
5G is the proposed next telecommunications standards beyond the current 4G standards. The former aims at higher capacity than current 4G, allowing a higher density of mobile broadband users, and supporting device-to-device, ultra-reliable, and massive machine communications.
The next step in 5G technology development involving trials is underway, with planned commercial deployment in 2022.
However, entrepreneurs and tech-savvy citizens expressed concern Zimbabwe was lagging, which would hinder an economy that is already battered by years of ruinous policies blamed on the government of President Robert Mugabe.
About 85 percent of Zimbabwe’s major companies have shut down over the years as a result of the controversial economic policies. Zimbabwe’s unemployment stands at an estimated 91.5 percent.
With the telecommunications sector earmarked to reverse the downslide, local Information Technology (IT) vendors, entrepreneurs and experts are advocating for the government to consider 5G in order to boost their participation in the economy.
With massive job cuts, the Southern African country has been turned into an economy of entrepreneurs with a majority preferring to start their own projects to seeking employment.
“We need 5G to increase the speed of broadband,” said Nowell Mafusire, an IT vendor based in the affluent Borrowdale in Harare.
“Indeed, the majority of people based in rural areas have no smartphones but that must not be a stumbling block to having 5G. We desperately require 5G in order to help us compete with our peers globally,” he added.
He was reacting to government’s unwillingness on the deployment.
Echoing similar sentiments, Highfields-based tech entrepreneur, Shadreck Mukurazhizha, said 5G would be handy in turning around Zimbabwe’s economic fortunes.
“An analysis of the local economy indicates that it is centred on technology entrepreneurs,” he pointed out.
“So, we desperately need 5G innovations. Business today is about speed, efficiency and accuracy. Any delays in the rollout of 5G might force the unemployed, who make up 90 percent of the population to revolt,” warned Mukurazhizha.
Technology entrepreneur, Yemurai Mhiripiri in Waterfalls, Harare, said, “We have since become a nation of entrepreneurs. As such, we always want to execute our business with speed in order to survive in an increasingly digital global marketplace.”
While responses could not be established from the country’s three mobile network operators- Econet, Netone and Telecel- despite questions emailed them, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Courier Services Minister, Supa Mandiwanzira, dismissed calls for the deployment of 5G as “too ambitious.”
“It’s a noble call to have 5G, but the country is not yet ready for that. We are not yet done with rolling out 4G due to a number of reasons, so, rushing to 5G will be overzealous,” Mandiwanzira told CAJ News in a telephone interview.
Although the Zimbabwe’s mobile penetration stands at 94, 3 percent is something to boast about, the majority people in the rural areas do not have smartphones.
“For us to have 5G, we must see that our people in the countryside have such devices as smartphones,” Mandiwanzira maintained.
According to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz), the country’ internet penetration rate, which is Zimbabwe’s measure of the percentage of the population that connects to the internet, stands at 50,1 percent.
This equates to slightly over half the population of 14 million people have connections to internet providers in the country.
– CAJ News