AfricaA recent prediction from Deloitte has forecasted that 2013 will see an upsurge in the momentum behind LTE mobile networks globally, with LTE thriving across multiple markets. But what role will Africa play in this global upsurge?

While LTE has hit the mainstream in more developed markets such as Asia, North America and Japan, Africa still remains at the early stages of its LTE development with very low LTE subscription numbers and limited coverage. Although far behind its global peers, LTE has certainly started to make an impact in Africa, with operators launching LTE services in five African countries just last year (see table below).

Operator Country Launch date
Movicel Angola April 2012
Orange Mauritius Mauritius June 2012
Smile Tanzania June 2012
MTC Namibia Namibia May 2012
Vodacom South Africa October 2012
MTN South Africa October 2012
Unitel Angola December 2012

 

 

 

 

 
Major players in South Africa have expressed their ambition to move to LTE with Vodacom and MTN both commercially launching LTE services, while Cell C and 8ta are currently in the trial stages.
Airtel Nigeria has also demonstrated its commitment to LTE, successfully completing its LTE trials in Lagos. As Africa’s biggest mobile market with over 100 million mobile subscriptions, there is significant potential for LTE in Nigeria.

In the competitive mobile market, African operators appear keen to be the first ones to bring these high-end services to customers and gain an early mover advantage. More recently, MTN Uganda announced its plans to deploy a 4G network in Uganda, which would make it the first operator to offer LTE technology in East Africa.

However, LTE will not be without its challenges in Africa. Issues surrounding spectrum availability, coverage and a lack of fibre and devices all pose obstacles to its development in the continent. LTE requires an entirely new technology infrastructure and therefore initial rollout costs for operators will be high. In addition, LTE may be out of financial reach for many customers in Africa with the high cost of mobile data that comes with 4G, deepening the ‘digital divide’.

However, as operators battle to strengthen their position in the mobile market the long-term benefits of LTE appear to outweigh the initial costs. Mobile operators in Africa are therefore eager to implement 4G and meet the needs of growing subscriber demand for data-driven services

Mazen Mroué, MTN Uganda Chief Executive Officer has said that LTE has become “the new standard”, while Kenya’s Essar Telecom has announced its strategy to skip 3G altogether and invest directly in LTE.

As strategies are put into place and operators race to rollout the technology, 2013 will be an important year for LTE in Africa. It’s fitting then that this year will also see the launch of Africa’s first dedicated LTE event, LTE Africa on 16-17 July 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa.  Bringing together the key players in the African LTE industry, the event will address the strategic and technical issues facing the market and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. Click here to view the preliminary agenda. To find out more information download the flyer here.

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