It has nearly been 100 days since South Africa went into Lockdown, the stay at home life. A reality that many of us were not ready for, trapped in the square meters of your home and only allowed to go out for essentials, at least now after the easing of the regulations in level 3, one can do more than the minimum that we could do. This is the new normal for now, that everyone is still getting used to, most jobs moved online but also the majority of the population had to stay in touch with loved ones via calls but mostly via the internet. Besides the panic buy for food people also made sure they have internet connections. Tons of data, fibre deals, whatever it took to stay connected, regardless of the pricey internet deals in South Africa what mattered most was having access to the internet whether it is for work, school or leisure.
For many, the internet became a necessity just like buying bread and milk. How much did we need to dig in our pockets to stay connected, it’s like buying electricity for our houses, the houses that needed to stay connected for the sake of our jobs? Until today data costs in South Africa have been a big debate. There might just be some light at the end of the tunnel when lockdown started ICASA (The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) was given the go-ahead to allocate temporarily spectrum to telecom operators so that the networks can be expanded and accessible to many during the lockdown. This has been an ongoing battle that operators have been trying to achieve before, which is possibly the light at the end of the tunnel. This is why there were some decreases in prices of data deals lately but this spectrum also allowed SA operators to start launching some of its new 5G technology, what does this have in store what can 5G mean to SA?
5G means faster internet and more possibilities in the 4th Industrial revolution. Increase speed to up to 100x faster than the 4G LTE networks. There is also a reduced latency which means no more lagging but having a real-time experience and never missing meetings again because of low bandwidth problems. Faster downloads and network reliability. Not only in the cellular networks but it can also mean better technology for robotics and development of artificial intelligence systems which is still underdeveloped in SA. It also provides better gaming experiences for gamers who can have fair gaming with no delayed frames which makes the games more competitive. This technology could give more advantages to hackers?
Some of SA’s service providers have started rolling out 5G in most metro areas recently, the responses have been great despite the radiation conspiracies regarding 5G on twitter. Technology-wise it can mean better days for SA the questions though whether there be a cut in data cost? One CEO of the network providers mentioned that an adequate spectrum is essential for mobile operators since they would be able to half their input costs which ultimately allow them to cut low on their prices as they would have more frequencies on which data and information can be carried. If not that I think there might still be a lower cost when 5G becomes popular which means decreased prices in 4G.
I think what everyone is hoping at the end of the day is that prices drop, so many people avoid going online (whenever I ask my friends to check out my blog) because of the ridiculous data costs, it cost the basic user more money to buy data than for someone who has a contract. This is ironic as the basic user should have an affordable price. Despite the luxury of surfing the internet but also making life easier for the many South African’s who now had to resort to moving their business to the internet. Will there be a rainbow at the end of the tunnel?
I tried explaining to a friend of mine that if she keeps on buying data the way she does, hundred-rand of data every second day that she would soon be broke due to one expense, which is data. I told her that this is her biggest expense. After a week or two, I made her swop over to a month to month network payment deal. She now has unlimited data and it’s costing her lesser than what she used to spend. Despite the technological benefits of 5G, will internet users stick with their 4G or will they be able to afford the new technology that is transforming in SA?
Not only will people need to pay for 5G connections they also would need to have 5G compatible devices, are South Africans ready for the new tech development which will allow them speed and comfortability or will it be a painful costly phase to the end of the tunnel.