Despite 4.5% 4G subscribers in Zambia, MTN rolls out its 5G service in the country 

Despite 4.5% 4G subscribers in Zambia, MTN rolls out its 5G service in the country 

MTN, a pan-African South-African mobile network operator (MNO) has launched its 5G service in Zambia, a country in the Southern African region. The telecom operator had previously launched its 5G services in South Africa and Nigeria in 2020 and 2022 respectively. Zambia’s 19.6 million people are not compared to the vast advantage the company has in South Africa and Nigeria.

Nigeria and South Africa have a population of 218.3 million and 60.6 million respectively. MTN serves a competitive market in the three countries and it is one of the top three in Zambia with about 7.2 million subscribers while Airtel, the leading telecom operator has over 8.5 million subscribers and Zamtel has about 4.25 million subscribers.

Even though MTN has a small market in Zambia considering the population, it might gain a competitive advantage of being the first of the other telecom operators in the country to have rolled out the 5G service commercially. “5G technology can connect virtually everyone and everything, including machines, objects, and devices. We are moving into an era of ubiquitous connectivity.” Chief Executive Officer, MTN Zambia, Mr Bart Hofker said during its pilot launch in January.

“MTN Zambia will be rolling out 5G pilot demonstration sites in Lusaka and Copperbelt Provinces and we are eager to set up specific and relevant use cases together with our Zambian customers and partners to expand social and commercial horizons, alongside the rest of the world,” he added.

The 5g service in Zambia will cover about 65% of the population in the cities of Lusaka, Kitwe and Ndola as well as parts of Chingola, Solwezi and Kalumbila which equate to about 15% of the country’s population. The aim, it seems, is to reach 100% 5G coverage in Lusaka, Kitwe and Ndola by the middle of 2023, while gradually expanding the 5G network to other locations.

It might be a tough one for network operators in the country as 3G providers are still about 66.5% of the population while 29% are 2G users. Unfortunately, only 4.5% are 4G users according to a market research company, Omdia’s estimate.

5G, the fifth generation network, is the latest after 4G. Its rapid adoption in the rest of the world relative to its slow growth in Africa indicates telecoms are now on the verge of launching the service wherever possible, not considering the rate at which 4G and even 3G are faring. This latest development by MTN Zambia presents that though the 5G adoption might be one to observe closely, efforts need to be made towards strategic optimisation and distribution of 3G and 4G alternatives.

It would not be long before Airtel Zambia deploys its 5G service despite the challenge it faces in Nigeria. In October, the company announced it has purchased a 60 MHz additional spectrum spread across the 800 MHz and 2600 MHz bands for US$29 million from the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA).

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