Botswana becomes Orange’s first commercial 5G launch in Africa

Orange Botswana has become the first Orange affiliate to launch 5G, covering 30% of the population including greater Gaborone and Francistown. Other cities will follow in early 2023.

It follows the launch of Botswana’s first Orange Digital Centre this morning, which will help bridge the digital divide and prepare Botswana youth for employment in a blossoming digital ecosystem. This 5G launch will support innovation and digital inclusion in the country, putting Botswana at the forefront of 5G in Africa, and is closely aligned with the government’s ambition to leverage Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) innovation towards transforming Botswana into a knowledge-based economy.

Offering ultra-high speed and low latency, 5G will support new disruptive services such as e-health, connected vehicles, connected cities, real-time gaming, smart homes and learning through VR and augmented reality. In the field of medicine, Orange Botswana has partnered with MRI Botswana to create a Connected Ambulance project that will allow Doctors to guide Paramedics through life saving procedures on their way to hospitals. The operator also plans to collaborate with government and enterprises on 5G-based use cases.

After the commercial launch of 5G services in Botswana, Orange Middle East and Africa intends to maintain its efforts in delivering advanced technologies to its MEA markets, adding value to local economies and bridging the digital gap within African populations.

In other countries, regulators still have not officially initiated the 5G licence attribution process, although many of them – such as Cote d’Ivoire – showed a clear will to make 5G spectrum available in 2023. Meanwhile, Orange is collaborating with several regulatory bodies to help build a 5G deployment roadmap while testing the technology and developing use cases that fit with the local populations’ need.

Jerôme Henique, CEO of Orange Middle East and Africa, says: “The launch of 5G technology in Botswana will allow us to scale-up this technology and gain experience for other Orange countries across Africa. The benefits and potential impact of this are promising. It will help promote Africa’s digital inclusion, resulting in socio-economic growth and job creation. It is also ensuring Africa’s skills development on digital management tools and is in line with the ambitions of the African Union “Digital Transformation for Africa (2022 – 2030)”. It begins here and now, in Botswana.”

Nene Maiga, CEO of Orange Botswana says: “At Orange Botswana, we are excited to be bringing in a new technology that will allow economic players to discover new possibilities enabled by 5G, and the way it could positively transform their daily activities. 5G connectivity is an incredible opportunity for businesses and the government, who are eager to take their operations to the next level. It is going to change how customers experience connectivity.”

Henique noted that Orange’s next MEA market to receive 5G connectivity will likely be Jordan, as the required agreements are already in place with the government, with Ivory Coast and Senegal likely to follow.

Maiga added that the cost of 5G devices in Botswana was something of a deterrent, but as prices edge below US$150, adoption is likely to increase. Henique added that Orange initially focuses on 5G FWA across its MEA footprint, as this is more affordable and ably demonstrates the benefits of 5G – plus the demand for home broadband in these markets is booming.

Henique noted that Ericsson is uing RAN equipment from Huawei in Botswana while tapping Ericsson for the core network, and added that Orange engineers were experienced with both companies, meaning the launch would be seamless. He said that Orange was exploring open RAN, but noted that the operational models were very different and would take time to implement, so traditional vendor models were preferable to achieve a quick launch in Botswana. However, he said that Orange saw promise in decoupling of networks and using a broader range of equipment providers.