The Path to 5G in the Developing World: Planning Ahead for a Smooth Transition

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The global race for implementing 5G mobile technologies has seen countries riding a new wave of wireless technologies. 5G—the next generation of mobile technologies—can enable a significantly higher level of performance over 4G mobile communications, providing a new layer of connectivity to support innovative, data-intensive applications. With the estimated impact of 5G on global gross domestic product to be in the trillions of US dollars, 5G’s deployment will drive innovation, job creation, worker productivity, and competitiveness across various sectors. Several use cases are already being tested, and deployment is under way in many countries. For some countries, 5G may seem a distant future prospect given the costs of infrastructure deployment and the need for expensive handsets; for other countries, 5G is an on-ramp to Industry 4.0 and has been folded into national strategy planning. 5G trials, pilots, and commercial deployments have been progressing around the world, but most deployments are in higher-income countries. Significant barriers remain for developing countries, many of which pertain to the challenges faced by the broader telecommunications sector and all of which threaten to further widen the digital divide and limit access to the economic opportunities that 5G connectivity enables. What does this reality mean for developing countries, and how can national governments prepare? "The Path to 5G in the Developing World: Planning Ahead for a Smooth Transition" surveys the technical capabilities of 5G and explores how countries can reach connectivity goals by using 5G as a layer of connectivity along with 4G and other technologies. This report also provides a guide for policy makers to better understand the opportunities, challenges, and risks posed by 5G so that they can plan for a policy and regulatory ecosystem that supports the path to advanced mobile network deployment, access, and adoption.
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World Bank. 2024. The Path to 5G in the Developing World: Planning Ahead for a Smooth Transition. Sustainable Infrastructure Series. © Washington, DC: World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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