At the end of March 2022, all countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council region had launched 5G services commercially, according to Nokia

5G subscriptions in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region are expected to reach 263 million by 2026, according to a new research by Nokia.

The research shows that the 5G subscription growth will primarily be in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain. Additionally, subscribers in South Africa, Nigeria and North African countries will increase adoption following the release of new spectrum. This trend is triggered by the increasing use of high-bandwidth consumer applications and industrial use cases, the Finnish vendor said.

In GCC countries, 5G technology will dominate with the subscriber base reaching 64% of the total and with data traffic likely to surpass 70% by 2026, according to the study. At the end of March 2022, all countries in the GCC region had launched 5G services commercially, while Bahrain and Kuwait already have nationwide 5G coverage, according to the Nokia report.

In Africa, 5G technology adoption will grow steadily, driven by the evolution of the device ecosystem and 5G spectrum allocations in many countries. While 4G subscribers in the Southern Africa region are projected to reach 105 million (58% of total subscribers) by 2026, 5G will contribute more than one-fifth of data traffic in the same time-frame, Nokia said.

North African operators have seen a high demand for mobile broadband and the region is expected to have a 20% increase in total subscribers by 2026, compared to 2022.

In Central East West Africa, today more than 60% of the total data traffic is carried by 4G. This traffic is expected to grow four times over the next four years. At the same time, 5G subscriptions are expected to account for nearly 10% of the total mobile subscribers in this period.

The Nokia study also reveals that 5G and 4G together are expected to drive more than 90% of data traffic in the MEA region, while total data traffic is expected to increase significantly in the next four years with a compound annual growth rate of 35%.

“Globally, the pace of 5G network rollouts has surpassed 4G/LTE networks. Two years after the first LTE launch there were only 25 million subscriptions across 60 networks, while two years after the first 5G launch, 340 million subscriptions were registered across 155 networks. Similarly, in MEA, our MEA Broadband Index Report finds 40% year-on-year growth in 4G data traffic but a huge 350% year-on-year growth in 5G data traffic in 2021 alone. This trend in the region clearly indicates that there is a pressing need for the adoption and expansion of 5G networks across the region,” said Mikko Lavanti, head of mobile networks for Nokia MEA. “Ultra-low latency and ultra-fast 5G networks can support a plethora of unimaginable use cases such as augmented and virtual reality and uncover new potential in digitizing sectors such as energy, transport, healthcare, manufacturing and education while providing amazing experiences to individual users.”

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