FINALLY JOINING THE FRAY?

More Spectrum Secured, Airtel Africa Is On The Verge Of 5G Rollouts

By  |  February 13, 2023

Airtel Africa has revealed that it has acquired a 5G deployment license in 4 African countries, marking the beginning of the operator’s long-expected foray into the fifth-generation connectivity bubble of the continent. 

The telco, which is one of the continent’s largest by overall market share, has now bought rights to 5G services in Tanzania, Nigeria, Kenya, and Zambia. The Tanzanian license was secured last October for USD 60.1 M, while the Nigerian permit came this January for USD 317 M. Its licenses in Kenya and Zambia were awarded last July and October, respectively. 

To kick start what the company has termed a selective rollout of the internet service, Airtel Africa will likely switch on its first 5G network in the high-income neighborhoods of Nairobi. 

This move mirrors that of Safaricom, Kenya’s largest telco, which chose areas with a high concentration of middle and higher-class customers; Kileleshwa, Muthaiga, Karen, Lavington, Two Rivers Mall, and Nakuru’s Greensteds International School.

Airtel Africa’s chief executive Segun Adesanya said the company is prioritizing cities where there are reasonable amounts of devices and high purchasing power, as it would ensure that the technology’s benefits are enjoyed to the maximum. 

“I still believe that 5G is good in the medium term. In the short-term, our focus will continue to be on expanding our 4G footprint, and selectively launching 5G to capture opportunities in high-income neighborhoods,” he said. 

Besides Kenya, the select few markets Airtel is foraying into are not entirely new to 5G. MTN launched its version in Nigeria last September, Vodacom in Tanzania around the same time, and MTN in Zambia last November. 

Nevertheless, the operator would face stiffer competition in Nigeria, as not only MTN but also Mafab Communications are racing to capture the markets amidst challenges with mobile penetration and high distribution costs. 

Airtel 5G efforts in Africa are not a standalone development. The operator’s Indian parent company, Bharti Airtel has started deploying the connectivity back in its home market. 

Since October 2022, the business has launched the service across 70 cities in India, starting with Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Siliguri, Nagpur, and Varanasi. The company has long-term plans to hit at least 300 cities in total by March 2034.

Airtel’s African 5G undertakings come on the heels of the reports that the business continues to yield financial positives. Earlier this month, the company revealed that it has realized higher revenues, as profits grew 1.7 percent to USD 534 M and overall revenues upped 12.1 percent to a record USD 3.9 B. 

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