Nigeria’s 5G Rollout Sees Ericsson Take Lead Role In Africa’s Deployment Drive
On Wednesday 24th August 2022, the Nigerian unit of Africa’s largest telecommunications firm, MTN, announced that it had kickstarted the rollout of fifth-generation connectivity services in the West African country, a first in the nation.
Per the news, the telco has officially switched on its allocated 5G spectrum, with an initial 200,000 subscribers across 190 sites and a reported mobile internet speed of 1.4GB per second.
MTN Nigeria’s 5G launch cater, although yet in a trial stage, focuses on seven major cities across the country, namely Lagos, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Abuja, Maiduguri, Kano, and Owerri. While no date has been disclosed for fully commercial services, these places will be the first to receive the service when it goes eventually from the pilot phase to large-scale availability.
“2G brought us SMS and picture messaging, 3G was about mobile internet access, and 4G made streaming and sharing a part of everyday life. 5G delivers the future and it’s here; higher internet speeds, downloads without delay, near-instant connection when streaming, using apps, loading websites, playing games, or connecting to smart home devices,” MTN CFO Modupe Kadiri said in a statement.
This development, which comes about 8 months after the Nigerian Communications Commission issued MTN as well as Mafab spectra to deploy the network, sees the local subsidiary of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed multinational join forces with Swedish telecommunications equipment market, Ericsson. The partnership between these companies dates back to 2014 when they went into a managed services agreement.
Though the telecom firm’s 5G trial started with Chinese Huawei and ZTE also involved, it is a known fact that Ericsson manages up to—if not already more than—70 percent of MTN Nigeria’s network infrastructure.
By joining forces with the telco, Ericsson is now aiding the deployment of 5G services in Africa’s largest economy, most populated country, and second-biggest telecoms market. For Kenya, Safaricom augmented the resources of Huawei and Nokia, while South Africa’s Vodacom roped in Nokia.
With more than 148.10 million subscribers as of April 2022, MTN is the largest telco in Nigeria and is one of the oldest players in the space, one whose subscriber base increases more often than not.
However, Nigeria is not the first place where MTN and Ericsson are teaming up to roll out 5G. In MTN’s home market, South Africa, the duo partnered in July 2020 to launch the connectivity network and has since been expanding the service, albeit gradually.
Elsewhere in the continent, however with different telcos, Ericsson has laid early claim to the 5G economies of Cameroon, Tanzania, Benin, Kenya, Egypt, Madagascar, Congo, Benin Republic, and even South Africa—obviously more than those of its direct competitors.
By way of Nigeria’s ongoing new network launch, as well as its existing partnership with telcos in other major African markets, Ericsson is taking the front seat of the region’s 5G drive, which according to a 2021 report, will reach 70 million connections by 2026. From the looks of it, Huawei, Nokia, and ZTE might have to play catchup in the coming years, even as they too partner with some local telcos.
Well, Nigeria is home to Africa’s largest tech startup tech ecosystem. Per WeeTracker stats, attracted USD 1.42 B in venture capital investments in 2021 alone and has since 2019 raised more than USD 3.6 B, according to Africa: The Big Deal.
From that perspective, the 5G rollout is, though still somewhat sketchy, long overdue in the continent’s most robust internet economy, needless to say outside South Africa.
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