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4G/5G

Airtel Uganda upgrades core network to be 5G ready

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Airtel Uganda has announced that its smartphone network is now ready for 5G technology. This is after the company completed an upgrade of its core network to pave the way for 5G services.

The mobile operator said it carried out successful testing at 11 mobile towers and it is now just waiting for spectrum to be allocated by the Ugandan regulator to push ahead with its 5G launch.

The 11 towers that have been tested are in areas including the Industrial area, Garden City Area, Upper Kololo, Clement Hill, Hannington Road, Lower Airstrip Kololo and Wampewo Avenue.

"According to the National Development Plan III, the use of ICT infrastructure is a key objective. An agile smartphone network like Airtel Uganda's is pivotal in the journey of Uganda's economic growth through digital and financial inclusion of every person," said Airtel Uganda Managing Director Manoj Murali during a press briefing on the announcement.

"We are completely aligned with Uganda's broadband strategy and accordingly ready to launch 5G technology. Customers with 5G-compatible devices can now enjoy the 5G experience using their existing 4G SIM cards," Murali continued.

He added that 5G can support a significantly higher number of devices per square kilometer compared to the existing 4G.

This makes 5G the suitable network over which remote teams can collaborate both effectively and efficiently, he continued.

5G revolution

Airtel Uganda making its network 5G ready follows several other telcos in Africa that have either launched 5G services or created an environment where 5G networks are ready.

Tigo Tanzania became the second operator to launch 5G services in the East African country earlier this month, following Vodacom Tanzania's launchin September 2022.

Airtel Uganda says it has completed upgrading its core network to pave the way for 5G services.  (Source: : jbdodane on Flickr CC 2.0).
Airtel Uganda says it has completed upgrading its core network to pave the way for 5G services.
(Source: : jbdodane on Flickr CC 2.0).

According to the GSMA, there are commercial 5G networks in more than ten African countries and many more countries are expected to launch commercial 5G by 2025.

In January 2023, Nigerian telecom operator Mafab Communications finally rolled out its 5G network services in Nigeria's capital city of Abuja, after MTN Nigeria rolled out its 5G services in August 2022.

Several African telcos launched 5G networks especially in 2022, incuding Orange in Botswana and MTN in Zambia in November; Safaricom in Kenya and Telkom in South Africa in October; as well as Econet in Zimbabwe in February.

According to Omdia, a sister company of Connecting Africa, MTN Uganda is the biggest telco in the country with an estimated 17 million subscribers and 52% market share at the end of 2022.

The company is followed by Airtel with 46% market share and 15 million subscribers leaving Uganda Telecom Ltd with 1.75% market share, with 572,000 subscribers, and Lycamobile has only 0.2% of the market with its 76,000 subscribers.

The country did have a fifth operator, Africell Uganda, however, the company shut down its operations in Uganda in 2021.

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*Top image is of young men using a cellphone. (Source: created by wirestock - www.freepik.com).

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

*Second image source: jbdodane on Flickr CC 2.0.

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