The planned test-run launch of its 4G LTE technology this week, no doubt would place MTN Nigeria at a vantage position in meeting subscribers’ demand for high speed internet connectivity, writes Emma Okonji
From the inception of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) in Nigeria in 2001, subscribers have always yearned for high speed connectivity for voice communication. At the inception of GSM, the technologies driving voice calls were the second generation and third generation (2G and 3G) technologies.
The paradigm shift from voice calls to data communication, which demands heavy data downloads, aggravated subscribers’ need and subsequent demand for high speed internet connectivity.
Based on subscribers’ continued demand for high speed connectivity, telecoms operators had over the years, evolved from the use of 2G technology to 3G, to 3.5G, to the latest fourth generation long term evolution (4G LTE) and Advanced LTE, in providing services for customers.
The passion to continually satisfy customers’ demand for high speed connectivity, must have prompted MTN into bidding for the 2.6GHz spectrum licence in February this year, where it emerged the only winner of six slots in the 2.6GHz spectrum, all in preparation for its 4G LTE rollout.
Today, more Nigerians run data-intensive apps with data traffic increasing at an unprecedented rate, a situation that is already changing their digital lifestyles.
Changing user expectations
With changing consumer expectations from voice calls to data connectivity, coupled with the increasing demand for high speed data connectivity the mobile network operators have equally shifted from merely improved call quality to providing higher data speeds and supporting new applications for smart mobile phones.
The change in user expectations has led to the evolution of 4G technology, which comes with great user experience, in terms of speed of connectivity and downloads.
The robust internet that comes on the heels of 4G LTE will foster productivity across all sectors of the economy. Remote working and teleconferencing, which are creative ways to cut cost for companies, remain difficult because of low fidelity connection. This is why the test-run of 4G LTE from MTN is an uplifting development that would complement government’s national objective of achieving 30 per cent broadband penetration target by 2018.
Although broadband penetration in Nigeria has further deepened from 10 per cent in 2013 to 14 per cent in 2016, it is expected that the planned rollout of 4G LTE technology by MTN and other internet service providers, would further deepen broadband penetration, which is the channel for increase internet access globally.
4G LTE will boost SMEs
According to Deloitte, enhanced internet access results in as much as 11 per cent productivity gain for small and medium enterprise (SME) businesses. For anyone who has tried to download a sales report over a dial-up connection, this truth is resonant. Time spent nursing slow downloads is time not spent driving more productive processes and delivering value.
Enhanced connectivity, of course, changes that, what about the bottom of the pyramid users? On the surface, this category of mobile phone users who use feature phones or low-end smartphones that don’t support LTE, won’t benefit from developments such as these, but that’s true only on the surface.
Studies such as the 2014 Value of Connectivity study done by Deloitte posture that access to internet could lift 130 million people out of extreme poverty.
Directly, access to the internet means people have access to empowering information, and indirectly, benefits stem from the enhanced speed and time savings for SMEs.
According to Deloitte study, SMEs are responsible for 40 per cent of industrial employment in Nigeria. With improved access, that number can begin to edge closer to the 70 per that is obtainable in advanced markets.
4G LTE will enhance e-banking
With the advent of MTN Y’ello Mobile banking platform with Diamond bank, MTN says it has shown the endless possibilities in creating products that help achieve a smarter lifestyles. MTN 4G LTE will enable higher productivity in mobile banking experience on the 4G LTE network across all connected platforms. Transactions will not only be faster but more reliable.
Several banking applications rely on speed of connectivity and the MTN 4G LTE technology is expected to offer such speed that will transform banking experience in today’s digital technology age.
The planned MTN 4G LTE rollout
According to MTN, the test-run launch begins this week, and when it is eventually launched, MTN would be one of the major telecommunications operators to offer the service in Nigeria.
MTN’s 4G LTE roll-out has been in the works for at least three years and several works have been put into it.
First, in 2013, MTN Nigeria partnered Alcatel-Lucent to transform its network from TDMA technology to an IP-network based on High Leverage Network architecture. Later in the same year, it began testing LTE networks across the country and it later won the bid for the 2.6GHz spectrum licence, which further positioned the telecoms operator to offer 4G LTE services to its over 161 million subscribers.
According to MTN Executive, Amina Oyagbola, “the company is determined to deepen broadband penetration in the country. Our recent license acquisition further demonstrates our faith in the future of Nigeria. We believe in supporting the positive transformation of Nigeria and we have demonstrated this belief through the level of our investment since 2001.”
MTN Nigeria CEO, Ferdi Moolman, said with the 2.6 GHz band, the company would roll out immediately to provide the full range of LTE services to Nigerians, empowering Nigeria with the latest mobile broadband technology.
About 4G LTE
Long-Term Evolution (LTE) is a standard for high-speed wireless communication for mobile phones and data terminals. It is based on the GSM/EDGE and UMTS/HSPA network technologies, increasing the capacity and speed using a different radio interface together with core network improvements.
LTE is the upgrade path for carriers with both GSM/UMTS networks and CDMA2000 networks. The different LTE frequencies and bands used in different countries will mean that only multi-band phones will be able to use LTE in all countries where it is supported.
LTE is commonly marketed as 4G LTE, but it does not satisfy the technical criteria of a 4G wireless service, as specified for LTE Advanced.
The excitement with MTN 4G LTE
One of the reasons the MTN 4G LTE offering is exciting, is how flexible it is said to be. According to MTN, there will be little to no extra barrier of entry to its 4G LTE services. MTN data bundles will run at the existing rates. While telecoms operators in developed markets ask 4G LTE subscribers to pay a premium, MTN said it would keep its old rates.
According to Moolman, “MTN continues to believe in Nigeria and we have expressed this belief in the level of our investment, which currently stands at approximately $15 billion and counting.”
“Our subscribers, especially those in clustered areas such as the major cities, can expect distinct improvements in browsing speed, quality and experience, including fast access to high definition video streaming, as well as conferencing and calling, lag-free music streaming, and improved data uploads and downloads,” Moolman added.
He explained that the first experience of its 4G LTE will be in Lagos, Abuja, and Port Harcourt cities.
With the planned test-run launch of the MTN 4G LTE technology, Nigeria, no doubt, is set for a true digital transformation.