MTN is pushing forward with 5G rollout in Uganda, having become the first mobile operator to offer the technology in the East African country.
The company began rolling out the fifth generation of mobile communication technology in its Uganda business at the end of July. It had 37 active sites up by the end of the quarter to end-September.
MTN was allocated fresh radio frequency spectrum in July for 4G and 5G services in the 700MHz, 2,600MHz, and 2,300MHz bands, which have since been deployed. In addition to the 5G expansion, the operator increased its 4G population coverage to 83.7% in Uganda.
To make sure that customers make the most of its network investment, the company has been working to increase smartphone adoption and usage.
“To optimise usage of the new spectrum acquired, we accelerated our efforts on smartphone adoption through our improved device financing proposition, mutually beneficial partnerships with phone manufacturers, and new partnerships with local smartphone assemblers to reduce the cost of smartphone acquisition,” MTN Uganda CEO Sylvia Mulinge said when the company reported third-quarter earnings on Thursday.
The company says these efforts translated to an increased smartphone penetration by 3.9% to 36.6%, and driving 27.5% growth in smartphone users.
In a new report detailing the connectivity gap on the African continent, international telecom body, GSMA, said the continent’s telecom operators have done much to expand their networks, which now cover more people, but much of that infrastructure is yet to be fully used because many simply cannot afford devices with which to connect to the internet.
The connectivity gap is measured in two main ways. First is according to network coverage where areas with mobile broadband networks are measured against those without. Second is a usage gap where people live in areas covered by broadband networks, but are yet to subscribe for, or make use of, that connectivity.
MTN, like a number of its rivals, is working to address usage gap.
This comes as Uganda’s largest mobile operator reported that its capital expenditure, excluding right of use assets, increased by 4.7% to 289.6-billion shillings for the period to September.
Service revenue grew 15.2% to 1.921-trillion Ugandan shillings (R9.41bn). After-tax profit increased 21.1% to 354.4-billion shillings. Data revenue grew 22% to 450.3-billion shillings.
Active data subscribers rose 23% to 7.5-million, lifting earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (ebitda) 15.6% to 985.4-billion shillings. Overall, subscriber numbers rose 13.9% to 19-million for the period.
Earlier in the week, MTN said it would appeal against a decision by Nigerian tax authorities as the group finds itself in yet another dispute in the West African nation. Authorities recently ordered MTN to pay $47.8m, about R881m.
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