What should we expect from 5G?

What should we expect from 5G?

Every day, global media publish news that creates a picture of an unstoppable technology race among the world’s economic giants. The assumption is, the winner will take it all – substantial economic profits and technological dominance. However, as the United States and China enter a new trade war, the future of the technological revolution becomes highly uncertain and questionable. This war is not merely about new trade tariffs; it is also about who will assume global leadership in the technological boom and become the primary driver behind enhanced connectivity and Internet growth.

5G – the word has become magic for millions of regular Internet users who want more speed, more connectivity, and more communication online. Private players and industrial manufacturers expect the implementation of 5G will be a life-changer for the entire world. However, its effects on the African continent will be slow and uneven. Many African countries lack the infrastructure required to ensure smooth and reliable Internet coverage. This is also the case of Ethiopia, which needs a major infrastructure upgrade to take advantage of 5G and its windfall.

5G – what does it mean? It seems that the world has already learned to live with and navigate through 4G, the latest standard of online connectivity that brings millions of people together and helps businesses expand their customer base. It seems that wireless technologies have reached the point where little if any, improvement is possible. In reality, the technological revolution opens endless opportunities for continuous improvement. 5G is likely to become a new standard of global communication. 5G is essentially about the fifth generation of wireless networks, and they are going to change the world once again.

The implementation of 5G means more connectivity than ever, speed more significant than ever, and opportunities richer than ever in the history of the Internet. As Molina (2018) notes, “5G offers a lot more bandwidth and lower latency, which means it can support the transfer of more data with fewer delays.” However, 5G is not simply about making smartphones run faster. It is about a whole new reality for individual users, business owners, and large manufacturing enterprises. It will boost the creation of new technologies like a virtual reality where the speed of communication and information exchange defines the quality of personal experiences (Molina, 2018). 5G will provide an impetus for creating effective and safe autonomous vehicles that heavily depend on online data. It will make the world faster and more efficient. It will also create new opportunities. Not surprisingly, the U.S. and China are competing to acquire and retain leadership in this lucrative market.

Some observers suggest China is a few steps ahead of its American rival when it comes to 5 G implementations. Watts (2018) writes that China has been quite successful in securing leadership in Telecom infrastructure with its commitment to 5G. The country has already invested nearly $180 billion in creating an effective 5G infrastructure (Watts, 2018).

Technology experts expect the implementation of 5G wireless networks will increase the number of regular Internet users by 50 percent (Watts, 2018). Of course, the extent to which different players benefit from 5G will vary, depending on their technological, economic, and overall readiness. Apart from having the technologies required to run and use 5G, private actors, business owners, and governments will need to develop new technological readiness. It will take some time to get used to the new standard of information exchange throughout the world.

This is why the effects of 5G on the African continent, and Ethiopia in particular, will not be felt immediately. It will also be uneven. It is not a secret that African countries pursue different models of economic growth. Their commitment to technologies and connectivity also varies depending on the presence or absence of extensive technology and Internet infrastructure. Simmonds (2018) writes that Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa are the likeliest candidates to benefit from 5G once it is implemented, in contrast to Ethiopia that is still struggling to provide even the basic conditions for advanced connectivity. Although Ethiopia is one of the most rapidly developing African countries, it has yet to reach the standard required for the smooth implementation of 5G. It will take some time, and it will also need the provision of extensive government support.

Despite some dramatic achievements in its Economy, Ethiopia is still lagging when it comes to its internet connectivity. The state monopoly did not help either. In fact, it created inefficiencies and a bloated bureaucracy. Complicating things further, Ethiopia has recently invested much of its meager resources in other major infrastructural projects. It may not have the financial wherewithal or incentives to invest in the development of 5G networks. Besides, many private actors and business enterprises in Ethiopia have not reached a level of sophistication that would justify or require the use of 5G. That said, the benefits of 5G are transformational. Furthermore, for Ethiopia to maintain its current economic growth, and to compete on a global scale, it needs to catch up on its technology infrastructure including 5G. The Ethiopian government must develop a policy to frame its readiness for 5G and link users and its fledgling technology companies to its resources and infrastructure.

Ed.’s Note: Samuel Alemu, Esq is a partner at the ILBSG, LLP. His partner at the ILBSG, LLP, Praveen C. Medikundam, Esq contributed to this article. They are both admitted to the bar associations of New York State, United States Tax Court, and the United States Court of International Trade. Samuel can be reached at

Contributed by Samuel Alemu

Note: released first on Reporter English

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