Africa Lags Behind in LTE Adoption and Coverage as Asia Leads


LTE (Long Term Evolution) is still relatively new in most parts of Africa. In Kenya, we’re just starting to experience it in parts of the capital, Nairobi, and Kenya’s second largest city, Mombasa. Malawi and Morocco which launched their LTE networks in April and June 2015 respectively are among the latest countries globally to embrace LTE. Others elsewhere include Laos and Guernsey.

While a good chunk of the continent is covered by LTE networks at the moment, it is the latency that is worrying. Latency is the time taken for a source to send a data packet to a receiver. Latency in African LTE networks is quite high hence slow speeds. Yes, there’s LTE but since LTE is all about improved (much faster) speeds when compared to 3G networks, this is yet to be realized. In fact, no African country makes it to the top of the global charts when it comes to LTE network speeds. South Africa’s MTN and Vodacom are the only presence in a global LTE speed comparison chart put together by OpenSignal in the latest State of LTE Q3 report released today averaging 4 and 10 mbps respectively.

Globally, it is Asia that takes the crown for having some of the fastest LTE networks in the world. South Korea’s Olleh tops by having the fastest LTE network in the world while New Zealand is number one when it comes to downlink speeds.

Again when it comes to countrywide coverage it is South Africa that makes a solo appearance on the charts as LTE networks by telecommunication companies MTN and Vodacom make sure users are able to connect to the internet via LTE 58% of the time; ahead of the likes of France, Germany and the United Kingdom. As stated earlier, Korea is top in coverage with users being able to connect to LTE 97% of the time.

While network latency is still an issue in Africa and LTE network coverage is still limited and a number of countries are yet to have their first LTE networks, there is a significant shift to LTE-Advanced which guarantees even faster downlink and uplink speeds resulting in doubling of overall network speeds by carriers around the world.