SA to wait for 4G smartphones

2012-02-13 07:49
Sony Ericsson has launched the Xperia Arc S smartphone, but says that South Africans will have to wait for 4G devices. (picture provided)

Sony Ericsson has launched the Xperia Arc S smartphone, but says that South Africans will have to wait for 4G devices. (picture provided)

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Cape Town - Smartphone manufacturers have said that next-generation high-speed wireless devices will take some time to develop in South Africa.

"The ecosystem around 4G is going to be driven by the networks and around spectrum availability, and their willingness to invest in 4G networks," Patrick Henchie, Nokia head of product for South and East Africa told News24.

The rollout of LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks is anticipated by users internationally and while operators in SA have promoted higher speeds on wireless networks, it's a long way from speeds of 40mbps and higher expected with LTE.

At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nokia debuted an LTE-capable smartphone, but Henchie said that it would be unrealistic for South Africans to expect such devices in the country.

"The Lumia 900 that we announced at CES is an LTE or 4G device made specifically for the AT&T network. It's something that's in the pipeline; as more networks become 4G compliant, so more handsets will arrive."


Sony Ericsson hinted that device manufacturers would have smartphones ready by the time operators made LTE networks available .

"We haven't got any LTE products yet, but obviously we will change and it will become available as a standard when the need is there," Sony Ericsson Southern Africa marketing manager Colin Williamson told News24.

The GSMA, which oversees the development of global mobile penetration, urged governments, particularly those in developing countries to make spectrum available for mobile broadband.

"Across all of Sub-Saharan Africa, by releasing the 2.6GHz digital dividend band for mobile broadband, by 2016, this could create an additional $82bn per year in net GDP [gross domestic product] across the region," said Peter Lyons GSMA director for spectrum policy in Africa and the Middle East.

Mobile broadband is essential in Africa as there is a lack of fixed line infrastructure and Lyons said the allocation of spectrum would also have a direct impact on job creation.

Williamson said that 3G took a while to become universal in the market and LTE would take time, and that as networks made the technology available, manufactures would be under pressure to produce capable devices.

"The best case to look is when 3G was growing. If LTE is available on the networks and the networks are saying 'We've got LTE, we're faster', it turns to the manufacturers to say: 'Shit, we really need to up our game on LTE.'"

Nokia conceded that the tension between manufactures and operators created some paralysis.

"It's a chicken-and-egg situation," said Henchie.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter
Read more on:    gsma  |  nokia  |  broadband  |  mobile

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