Technology

Countries That Have Launched 5G in Africa

5G has seen significant adoption not only in the country but across Africa as a whole in the past few years. Cellular carriers across the continent have been working hard to expand their current 5G coverage networks.

 

 

Kenya

5G trials started in early 2020 in Kenya by the country’s leading telco Safaricom, a year after 5G networks went commercial in the U.S. and South Korea. Safaricom 5G was eventually rolled out to the public in October 2022 and was the sole provider in Kenya for ten months until Airtel launched its 5G network in July 2023.

 

Safaricom 5G is now available in select towns in 35 counties nationwide including Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi to Marsabit County. Airtel 5G is accessible in 32 counties in the country. Late last month, Equitel launched their 5G network which is available across 370 locations from the coast, the lakeside and the north rift.

 

With three players in the country, Kenya saw positive growth in terms of 5G mobile subscriptions. Second quarter sector statistics report financial year 2023/2024 show that subscriptions grew to 586,684 users from 509,737. This is a reflection of the telco’s efforts to expand 5G coverage, making 5G bundles and devices – both smartphones and routers affordable.

Tanzania

Tanzania has three carriers that have already launched 5G networks. Vodacom was the first to launch 5G in September 2022, followed by Tigo in February 2023 and Airtel in August 2023.

 

Vodacom 5G is available in 230 locations with coverage extending from Zanzibar, Mbeya, Iringa, Mwanza, Arusha and Dodoma. Tigo 5G is accesisble in Dar Es Salaam, Dodoma, and Zanzibar. Airtel 5G is available in select towns in Tanzania including Dar Es Salaam.

 

Uganda

MTN Uganda launched 5G in July(28th) last year and plans to increase coverage across the capital Kampala(Lugogo and Bugoloobi) by the end of this year. MTN Uganda, Sylvia Mulinge said that the carrier’s year plan was to convert all the network’s base sites across major towns to 5G.

 

That same weekend(July 30th) after the MTN Uganda 5G launch, Airtel Uganda launched its 5G network in Kampala. The two are the biggest networks in Uganda with MTN having 18.2 million subscribers(52%) while Airtel has 15.9 million subscribers(46%).

 

Somalia

Somalia launched its first 5G network in January this year with Somtel taking the lead for its four million mobile subscribers. Just last week(March 2024), Hormuud Telecom also announced their 5G services offering free 5G plan upgrades to 4G subscribers.

 

Hormuud Telecom is available in Mogadishu, Dobey, Merca, Kismayo, Galkayo, Afgoye, Dhusamareeb, Beledwayne and Baidoa. The telco said its 5G network is up to 81% in the region.

 

Ethiopia

In Septemeber last year, Ethio Telecom launched their 5G network available in Addis Ababa(145 sites). Safaricom is available in the country but they only offer 2G, 3G and 4G services in 11 cities in Ethiopia.

 

Safaricom is the country’s second telco and reported 9 million subscribers in January and now covers 33% of the nation(2242 base stations).

 

Here’s a brief breakdown of 5G across other African Countries:

Compared to last year, more countries have commercially launched their 5G networks with more increasing the areas they’re currently piloting and scheduling official launches during or before the end of the year.

 

Very few countries have been left behind focusing on increasing their 3G and 4G coverage which is still a good thing.

 

 

Africa has over 1.2 billion mobile connections with over 650 million unique mobile users which makes it imperative for an upgrade to 5G.

 

It is predicted that 5G will impact various industry sectors – ranging from manufacturing, agriculture and retail and will contribute $26 billion to the continent’s economy by 2030.

 

GSMA Intelligence’s recent figures show that 5G connections are going to represent over half of mobile connections by the end of this decade.

 

It has been fascinating to see how quickly 5G has been adopted compared to 4G – it rose to 1.6 billion connections by the end of last year and is forecasted to reach 5.5 billion by 2030.

 

The beginning of this year saw 261 operators in 101 countries launch 5G networks including Africa with most carriers, especially in the continent opting for the low-band spectrum or the mid-band spectrum.

 

The biggest challenge with the 5G rollout in Africa has been limited 5G network coverage, and the high cost of 5G devices and most of them are satisfied with the previous 4G and 3G networks.

 

The future is looking bright as mobile operators and enterprises are working together to unlock 5G’s superior capabilities. There’s a sizeable market opportunity which heavily depends on policies that enable network investments which include regulators availing more spectrum for faster 5G adoption.

 

It is still imperative for Africa to keep up with the global 5G adoption which can be done using the phased approach which is a sustainable way to ensure consumers and enterprises enjoy enhanced connectivity.

 

Scaling 5G across Africa will still need collaborations between stakeholders which includes cost-effective network deployment, partnerships between consumers and enterprises to bring relevant localized use cases, and coming up with programs that make 5G devices more affordable for the mass market.

 

There’s a strong demand for high-speed connectivity, especially with the youth who are data-hungry when it comes to consuming multimedia content(video streaming, music, gaming, live sports, cloud storage), mobile and cloud-based gaming.

 

Many phone makers are rushing to release affordable 5G devices to allow customers to connect to the network.