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Investment in 4G LTE Networks within African Nations

The African continent could experience high growth and real socioeconomic advancement -- if only the nations of the region can end the debilitating ethnic wars and outlaw the deep-rooted local government corruption.

Meanwhile, telecommunications infrastructure investment continues unabated.

By end of 2018, it's estimated that half the African population will be covered by 4G LTE mobile networks, as LTE base station deployment swells at a CAGR of 40 percent over the next five years, according to the latest market study by ABI Research.

However, LTE network population coverage will be far from homogenous across the region, with a few countries such as Angola and Namibia nearing the halfway point already, while wealthier nations like Botswana and Gabon have yet to deploy the advanced technology.

"Part of the underlying reason for this digital divide is the different types of initiatives driving LTE roll-out," says Ying Kang Tan, research associate at ABI Research.

ABI says that they expect wholesale or shared networks -- such as the joint venture between the Rwandan government and Korea Telecom and the public-private partnership proposed by the Kenyan government -- to spur LTE deployment.

While the public-private partnership has stalled, the government is considering a spectrum sharing agreement to resolve the matter. Other initiatives such as a pure LTE operator, Smile, will also introduce new dynamics into the wireless market.

Meanwhile, African LTE cellular subscriptions are projected to multiply at a CAGR of 128 percent to surpass 50 million at the end of 2018 -- nearly half are expected to be able to use VoLTE services.

What makes this exponential subscription growth possible is the increasing affordability of LTE mobile phones a few years down the road. LTE handset shipments will increase by 75 percent annually on average in the next five years.

Given the limited fixed-line infrastructure, most people will depend on the wireless network for Internet access. There is a strong business case for mobile operators to roll-out LTE early to take advantage of the opportunity.

Hopefully, this ongoing investment in mobile networks will somehow help the multitude of poor people that are living in absolute poverty within the region.

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