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MTN plans to achieve 10% 5G network reach in 2023

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South Africa’s telecoms firm, MTN Group said it’s aiming at achieving a 10 percent fifth-generation (5G) network reach by the end of this year across its 19 markets on two continents.

The telecommunication firm, which disclosed this in its Integrated Report for the year ended December 31, 2022, said it has deployed over 2,500 5G sites across its 19 markets on two continents. In Nigeria, MTN has rolled out over 588 5G sites across major cities.

Indeed, the telecommunications firm pioneered 5G rollout in Nigeria last August, starting with Lagos, where it deployed the service in about 81 towns and planned a gradual expansion of the network to six other cities, including Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Kano, Owerri, and Maiduguri.

While Mafab Communications, the second licensee, announced in January its readiness to roll out after the five-month extension handed to it by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) expired, Nigerians are yet to get the service from Mafab, almost four months after the announcement in Lagos.

On the other hand, Airtel, which emerged as the sole bidder in December 2022 in the planned second phase of the 5G auction, has yet to reveal its rollout plans since getting the license from the NCC.

In the Integrated Report, MTN Group Chief Executive Officer, Ralph Mupita, said in the period, it rolled out 3,498 3G and 7,993 4G sites, culminating in “our 3G and 4G coverage increasing by nine million and 45 million people, respectively.

“In 2022, we rolled out 1,570 5G sites, mainly in South Africa and Nigeria, bringing our total number of 5G sites to 2,527,” he added.

The report stated that in South Africa, MTN is rolling out 5G after winning the spectrum in the auction held by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa. An additional spectrum is to be released in the short term.

The firm said that after winning 100 MHz of spectrum for 5G in the auction, MTN became the first operator to launch 5G in Nigeria in 2022.

“We are targeting 10 percent 5G population coverage by the end of 2023.” The other spectrum winner is yet to launch its network,” MTN stated.

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Already, a report by the Global System for Mobile Telecommunications Association (GSMA) noted that the shipment of 5G-enabled devices increased by 26.9 percent to Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries in 2022.

In its report, titled ‘the mobile economy: Sub-Saharan Africa 2022’, it said: “The availability of 5G devices—and at affordable prices—will be crucial to 5G adoption in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“This is especially true given that the sluggish uptake of 4G across the region is, in large part, attributable to the high cost of devices relative to average income levels.” That said, Smartphone shipment data for the region suggests growing demand for 5G-enabled devices.

“For example, in the second quarter of 2022, the shipment of 5G-enabled devices increased by 26.9 percent, significantly outpacing the overall growth of Smartphone shipments to the region.

“Growth is being driven by a number of factors, including a young and tech-savvy population with a taste for the latest technology and increasing competition among handset makers to bring the most advanced but affordable models to market.”

According to it, cheaper 5G devices were mainly produced by Chinese vendors, with Transsion brands leading the market in terms of sales. It added that at the end of September 2022, 214 mobile operators in 81 markets worldwide had launched commercial 5G services.

GSMA explained that 5G was becoming mainstream in pioneer markets, with 5G accounting for nearly half of the mobile connections in South Korea and more than a third in the US.

It stated that the growth of 5G had been boosted by several factors, including the economic recovery from the pandemic, rising 5G handset sales, and overall marketing efforts.

Also, increased 5G rollout and 4G expansion improved foreign investments into the telecommunications sector by 325.12 percent in 2022. The capital importation data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that telecoms attracted $456.82 million in 2022, compared to $107.46 million that was attracted in 2021.

This is as the sector continued to retain its appeal for foreign investment despite the country’s challenging economic environment. Though telecoms recorded an increase in foreign investments in 2022, the total foreign investments into the country fell by 20.47 percent, or $1.37 billion, from $6.7 billion in 2021 to $5.33 billion in 2022.

According to NBS, “disaggregated by sectors, capital importation into the production sector recorded the highest inflow of $392.54 million, representing 37.01 percent of total capital imported in Q4 2022.

“This was followed by capital imported into the banking sector, valued at $255.45 million (24.08 percent), and telecoms with $168.27 million (15.86 percent).”

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