African nations ahead of Europe in LTE deployment

mobileAfrica's LTE subscriptions are expected to be nearly 350,000 by the end of 2012. (Image source: DATEV eG/Flickr) Long-Term Evolution (LTE) services are more in use in a number of African nations than in several Europeans countries

Several LTE schemes have been launched by service providers across a selection of African nations in the past two months. Leading the way are Angola’s Movicel and Namibia’s MTC, the first operators in Africa to deploy LTE.

Next is Mauritius’ second-largest mobile operator Emtel, which launched its commercial LTE service at the end of May. This was closely followed by Smile Communications in Tanzania, which launched the service at the start of June.

London-based firm, Informa Telecoms & Media recently predicted nearly 350,000 LTE subscriptions in Africa by the end of 2012. The subscription figures are expected to increase to around 40 million by the end of 2017. South Africa is set to see its first LTE service by the end of this year, while LTE launches are expected in Nigeria in 2013.

Senior analyst at Informa Telecoms, Thecla Mbongue, said, “The launches in Angola and Namibia came as a surprise on the continent itself as the focus was on South Africa, where all operators have been conducting LTE trials. However, delays in licencing relevant spectrum have held up launches in South Africa.

"At present, only the ISP iBurst has confirmed an LTE launch by end-2012 and it does not exclude sharing its infrastructure," Mbongue added.

Another Informa Telecoms analyst, Kalyan Medapati, said, "Cellular network traffic in Africa is expected to increase by at least nine times by 2016.

"Rapid rollouts of 3G networks have helped operators cope with growing demands, but, going forward, the scale of the problem is such that the operators need to find further efficiencies in spectrum usage," Medapati noted. "LTE will bring these efficiencies by conserving radio spectrum."

Handset availability is one of the major factors hindering the widespread deployment of LTE networks globally. LTE handsets comprise 18 per cent of the total LTE devices available in the market. There are around 15 varieties of LTE devices, compared with more than 2,000 WCDMA-based 3G device models in markets across the world.

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