With 3G/4G Penetration of 40.1%, How Will Commercial Roll Out of 5G Play Out in Nigeria?

China Issues 5G Licenses to Four State Owned Companies Despite US Threats
5G is a serious topic for the fourth industrial revolution

Nigeria is one of the next destinations for 5G in Africa. This was revealed by MTN at the launch of its 5G network in Bloemfountein and Port Elizabeth in South Africa.

The 5G expansion across Africa is part of the agreement signed by MTN and Ericsson for the deployment of the Fifth Generation (5G) network. The network will be deployed as a commercial service in Nigeria and 20 other countries in Africa where it currently operates.

5G is still in its early stages because of the high cost of infrastructure required to set it up. It requires new transmission infrastructure and thousands of cell towers, multiple thousands of small cells and distributed antenna systems (DAS). The antenna systems will be deployed on utility poles and other infrastructures.

While preparing for the launch of the 5G network, MTN upgraded to Ericsson’s Evolved Packet Core (EPC). The upgrade has enabled MTN to launch 5G services based on new radio (NR) non-standalone (NSA) and will make it seamless to transition into new Radio (NR) standalone and 5G Core in the future.


The agreement between the two companies provides MTN with radio access network equipment from Ericsson Radio System portfolio. This enables 5G services on both low and mid-band, as well as Ericsson’s Spectrum Sharing service.

According to Fadi Pharaon, president of Ericsson Middle East and Africa, “We have a rich history of working in close partnership with MTN and now we are going live with 5G in South Africa.”

“With many live commercial 5G networks across the globe, we look forward to continuing our long-standing partnership with MTN, jointly leading and driving innovation to ensure the digitalisation of Africa.”

Broadband penetration in Nigeria

The journey to digitalisation is a slow-paced one in Nigeria. Therefore the penetration rate of 3G/4G network in the country is still low. The NCC stats show that 3G/4G network adoption increased to 40.14% in May, with 76,618,992 subscriptions in total. The penetration was 33.13% with 63,244,610 subscriptions as of May 2019, and 24.83% with 47,401,673 subscriptions in May, 2018.

Suggested read: Nigeria’s Broadband Penetration Now Stands at 40.14% With 76,618,992 Users

The increase in the number of subscriptions in May 2019 represent a 33.42% year-on-year growth from the 47,401,673 recorded in 3018. The number of subscriptions in May 2020 show a 21.1% increase from the 63,244,610 recorded in May 2019. This shows that the rate at which more people are adopting 3G/4G network in the country reduced in 2019.

Since connectivity is still relatively low for the current networks available, this means that the adoption of 5G in the country, with other attendant huge requirements like new devices and maybe new modems and SIM cards, will happen at an even slower pace than that of its 3G/4G counterparts.

The additional cost of 5G infrastructure points out that the commercial service will come at a higher cost than that of 3G/4G. One of the factors outlined by the new broadband planthat was released by the NCC in March, is that broadband will be accessible at a price of not more than ₦390 for 1GB of data by 2025. The price reduction is aimed at making it possible for more Nigerians to adopt 3G/4G network.

The additional costs that will trickle down from telcos to subscribers for the 5G network will slow down its adoption in the country, maybe even more than it does for the existing networks.

In summary, industries, businesses, and individuals will find a lot of benefits which include faster internet speeds and reduced latency from the 5G network when rolled out in Nigeria, and other parts of Africa. Its adoption will, however, be slower and may take years before becoming significant, in Nigeria at least.

Technext Newsletter

Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!

Register for Technext Coinference 2023, the Largest blockchain and DeFi Gathering in Africa.

Technext Newsletter

Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!