Telecoms operator MTN aims to achieve a 10% reach of its fifth-generation (5G) network by the end of 2023, according to its Integrated Report for the year ending 31 December 2022. The company claims to have already deployed over 2,500 5G sites across its 19 markets in two continents. In Nigeria, MTN has rolled out over 588 5G sites across major cities, having pioneered the 5G rollout in the country last August, starting with Lagos.
It plans to expand the network gradually to six other cities including Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Kano, Owerri, and Maiduguri. MTN became the first operator to launch 5G in Nigeria in 2022 after winning 100 MHz spectrum in the auction.
Meanwhile, Airtel, which was the sole bidder in the planned second phase of the 5G auction in December 2022, has not revealed its rollout plans since obtaining the licence from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Mafab Communications, the second licensee, announced in January its readiness to roll out after the five-month extension handed to it by the NCC expired. However, almost four months after the announcement in Lagos, Nigerians are yet to receive the service from Mafab.
MTN Group CEO Ralph Mupita stated that the company had rolled out 1,570 5G sites, mainly in South Africa and Nigeria, in 2022, bringing the total number of 5G sites to 2,527.
The firm is rolling out 5G in South Africa after winning the spectrum in the auction held by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa, and an additional spectrum is to be released in the short term. MTN deployed 3,498 3G and 7,993 4G sites in the period, with 3G and 4G coverage increasing by nine million and 45 million people, respectively. The company is targeting a 10% 5G population coverage by the end of 2023.
The shipment of 5G-enabled devices increased by 26.9% to Nigeria and other Sub-Saharan African countries in 2022, according to a report by the Global System for Mobile Telecommunications Association (GSMA) titled ‘The mobile economy: Sub-Saharan Africa 2022’.
However, the report also notes that the slow uptake of 4G across the region was due to the high cost of devices relative to average income levels, and the availability of 5G devices at affordable prices would be crucial to 5G adoption in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Cheaper 5G devices were mainly produced by Chinese vendors, with Transsion brands leading the market in terms of number of sales. As of September 2022, 214 mobile operators in 81 markets worldwide had launched commercial 5G services, and 5G accounted for nearly half of mobile connections in South Korea and more than a third in the US.