Monrovia – When one of Liberia’s premiere cellular networks launched its 4G+LTE in Monrovia recently, it marked a major in road into technological advancement and landed Liberia into the technology evolution.
For subscribers and cellular users, this means that the LTE, a first-generation technology, should theoretically reach improved speeds and offer better options for streaming and downloading.
Most regulators in Africa have issued 4G LTE licenses, while many are still in the process of assigning spectrum.
Cellcom Liberia, the mobile operator recently acquired by Orange Group via its Orange Cote d’Ivoire subsidiary, has now joined a growing list of operators to receive the coveted license and enhance the competition for being amongst the first to deploy the fastest mobile Internet speeds in Liberia.
As of early 2013, there were an estimated 300,000 activated LTE SIM cards on the continent, with 94% of those found in South Africa. By the end of 2016, there should be 11 million LTE subscriptions, up from 1.6 million in the first quarter of 2014.
Which Phones Are Compatible
In hopes of staying ahead of the curve, Cellcom, in the hours after its 4G+LTE launch, immediately began notifying its subscribers about the new and endless possibilities with faster internet for HD movies, videos, TV and streaming.
Subscribers were then asked to check if their smartphones were 4G+LTE ready by dialling *583# with a reply prompt immediately notifying them whether the phones were compatibility.
Most smart phones are compatible with the features of the 4G+LTE including: Amazon Fire phone, iPhone 5, 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Blackberry Z10/Z30/Q10/Passport, HTC One M8 & M9, Motorola Nexus 6, LG G Flex 2 & G3, Huawei Honor 6, Galaxy Note 3 & 4, Galaxy Note Edge, Galaxy Note S4, S5 & S6, Sony Xperia Z2 & Z3
In launching its 4G+LTE, Cellcom is hoping that its Long-Term Evolution mobile standard will raise the bar and competition in a country with a little over five million cellular subscribers.
While the initial coverage is limited to Montserrado County, the company is already in the process of rolling out services to other counties in the coming months.
Avisha Marziano, Chief Executive Officer says the advent of LTE in Liberia would ensure that ’customers enjoy the latest high speed internet service’ in the country.
All this coming in the aftermath of the acquisition of Cellcom by Orange Group via its Cote d’Ivoire unit, following an agreement to acquire the Liberian subsidiary at the start of this year.
Cellcom currently serves around 1.4 million subscribers and its Orange linkup is expected to improve services for thousands of subscribers, a point Orange hit home following the announcement of the merger deal:
“Over the next few months, Liberian customers will benefit from the arrival of Orange, one of Africa’s leading players in the telecoms industry. Orange will provide its marketing expertise and world-class technical capability to further strengthen the operator’s established network and enhance customer service.’ Liberia has become the 20th market in Orange Group’s Africa and Middle East footprint.”
Trumpeted as the country’s first 4G network in Liberia, Cellcom prides itself of always pushing the competition envelop with being among the first to acquire the most advanced mobile Internet technology in the world, in hopes of doubling current Internet speeds, while allowing users to experience unprecedented uploads and download speeds.
Vice President Joseph Boakai, agrees. At the launch of the cutting edge technology recently, he marvelled. “Today, I’m proud to tell you that we are changing Liberia with technology.”
For Marziano, the new technology will help a large portion of the population. “We expect this new technology to affect education, the press, health, transportation, security and all aspects of Liberia,” he said.
Mr. Kimmie Weeks, the company’s Chief Corporate Communications Strategist explains that Liberia will now be ahead of many African nations, including South Africa. “With the introduction of this technology, Cellcom has essentially set Liberia ahead of the rest of Africa and on par with Europe and the United States in terms of mobile Internet speeds”.
Today, several countries across the continent are catching the 4G+LTE wave and the list is growing.
In Namibia, the MTC carrier began 4G LTE service in May 2012, claiming speeds 10x faster than before while its main competitor, TN Mobile offered a competing 4G LTE product in November 2013.
Angola’s Movicel took a top-down approach to its deployment of 4G LTE, claiming it is “building an elegant network” to expedite growth in Angola and has expanded to three provinces. Unitel, is main rival, has also been offering LTE since December 2012 and is testing LTE-Advanced as of early 2014.
While Multitel deployed 4G LTE in Luanda as of November 2015. In Tanzania, Smile Telecom is aiming to use 4G LTE to improve socioeconomic conditions in the country and in late 2015 rolled out VoLTE service. Tigo rolled out 4G technology in May 2013 and plans nationwide coverage by the end of 2016. Smart Telecom offers LTE.
TTCL launched 4G LTE in late 2015. Zantel is launching 4G for Zanzibar in early 2016. Vodacom in South Africa launched launched 4G in selected parts of Johannesburg in October 2012. While MTN, Cell C, Telkom (8ta), and Neotel also have 4G LTE offerings. Telkom has deployed LTE-A in select cities.
To date, at least forty-nine countries have one commercial 4G LTE network as a growing list of African mobile operators are launching LTE service in the largest markets. Impressively, 4G service can now be found in a bevy of African nations (28 of them and counting). Another handful should have commercial 4G LTE service within months.
The technological ability and the user demand for such services signal a step forward for African business. Nations with 4G service – even in part of a capital city – are heralded as globally-competitive economic players. At home, the promise of 4G fuels nationalism and hope for social change via technology.
All this means that Liberia, thanks to Cellcom, is on par with the competition, including its regional neighbours. For example, in Nigeria, Smile has LTE service in Ibadan since January 2013 in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt and Benin City. Swift and Spectranet both launched LTE later in mid-2013.
While Airtel and Globacom have tested LTE in the past, major networks like MTN was still migrating WiMAX to LTE as of late 2015. NITEL plans on rolling out 4G LTE sometime this year.
In next door, Cote d’Ivoire, the YooMee network officially launched TD-LTE for consumers and businesses in April 2014. Formal use of 4G by other operators is expected to be granted sometime this year.
In Ghana, Alcatel-Lucent and Surfline Communications launched 4G LTE in August 2014, Blu also offers 4G while BusyInternet is currently testing the LTE brand.
In Senegal, Orange launched a 4G pilot trial in September 2014, Tigo had a test running through March 2015 and the regulator is calling for 4G license bids by the end of Q1 2016 after the three current mobile operators boycotted the initial request.
Several other countries are considering but are yet to log on to the 4G+LTE. Among them: Egypt announced with the help of Ericsson that it should be going in for the play sometime this year.
Guinea’s Sotelgui is expecting LTE soon while Togo’s TogoCel launched 4G service in 2015. Chad’s Tigo starting testing the 4G LTE in N’Djamena in July 2014 and Tunisia’s Ooredoo is currently testing 4G in two cities. Tunisie Telecom is testing as well and Commercial 4G LTE will roll-out in 2016.
For the foreseeable future, Marziano and Cellcom are hoping that its subscribers will continue to benefit from cutting edge technology and boost their speed well beyond that of their competition.
“With the new technology, the current browsing speed cellular network will exceed by 100 times that of our competitors and 10 times of 3G network. We have seen an increase in customers consuming cellphones since we broke the monopoly.
Now with new technology like smartphones and l-phones we are in the process of upgrading our networks to make our customers happy and stay ahead of the competition.”
The launch comes just seven years after the LTE was formally submitted as a candidate 4G system to the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T), one of the three sectors (divisions or units) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) which coordinates standards for telecommunications globally.
In Liberia, where the trend is catching on, subscribers are already finding it easier to navigate the web and Cellcom is pressing to ensure that the 4G+LTE brand makes the difference as it strives to stay ahead of the competition while giving its subscribers more for their money.
Active (in chronological order of 1st deployment):
Namibia: MTC began 4G LTE service in May 2012, claiming speeds 10x faster than before. TN Mobile offered a competing 4G LTE product in November 2013.
Angola: Movicel is taking a top-down approach to its deployment of 4G LTE. The company claims it is “building an elegant network” to expedite growth in Angola and has expanded to three provinces. Unitel has also offered LTE since December 2012 and is testing LTE-Advanced as of early 2014. Multitel has deployed 4G LTE in Luanda as of November 2015.
Tanzania: Smile Telecom is aiming to use 4G LTE to improve socioeconomic conditions in the country and in late 2015 rolled out VoLTE service. Tigo rolled out 4G technology in May 2013 and plans nationwide coverage by the end of 2016. Smart Telecom offers LTE. TTCL launched 4G LTE in late 2015. Zantel is launching 4G for Zanzibar in early 2016.
Mauritius: Orange launched 4G LTE in May 2012. Emtel began commercial 4G service in July 2012. MTML launched LTE in May 2015.
South Africa: Vodacom launched 4G in selected parts of Johannesburg in October 2012. MTN, Cell C, Telkom (8ta), and Neotel also have 4G LTE offerings. Telkom has deployed LTE-A in select cities.
Uganda: MTN launched a 4G LTE network in April 2013. Smile launched 4G LTE in June 2013. Orange launched in July 2013. Vodafone launched LTE in February 2015.
Nigeria: Smile has operated LTE service in Ibadan since January 2013 (and Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Benin City since). Swift and Spectranet both have launched LTE later in mid-2013. Airtel and Globacom have tested LTE in the past. Bitflux will soon launch LTE-A. MTN is migrating WiMAX to LTE as of late 2015. NITEL plans on rolling out 4G LTE by March 2016 to major cities.
Zimbabwe: Econet Wireless has 19 LTE towers operational as of late 2015. NetOne also offers LTE in one city. Telecel is launching LTE in 2016. As of Q3 2015, there were 26,185 LTE subscriptions in the country after experiencing 5,400% growth over the quarter.
Zambia: MTN launched 4G LTE in Lusaka, Kitwe, Ndola, and Livingstone in January 2014. Zamtel will launch nationwide service in 2015 through Cell Z.
Cote d’Ivoire: YooMee officially launched TD-LTE for consumers and businesses in April 2014. Formal use of 4G by other operators will be granted in early 2016
Algeria: Algerie Telecom Mobilis launched 4G in May 2014. Three more 4G license are to be granted shortly
Ghana: Alcatel-Lucent and Surfline Communications launched 4G LTE in August 2014. Blu also offers 4G. BusyInternet is launching LTE in early 2016
Rwanda: Rwanda has signed a deal with South Korea’s KT Corp. to roll out 4G to 95% of its citizens within three years. Service began with Olleh Rwanda Networks in November 2014. Tigo now offers 4G
Senegal: Orange launched a 4G pilot trial in September 2014. Tigo had a test running through March 2015. The regulator is calling for 4G license bids by the end of Q1 2016 after the three current mobile operators boycotted the initial request
Gabon: Gabon Telecom launched 4G in Libreville in October 2014. In November 2015 the company announced 4G+ – Airtel followed suit in December 2015
Lesotho: Vodadcom has offered 4G LTE since October 2014
Morocco: Maroc Telecom tested 4G in Rabat in November 2014 and offers LTE-A in select cities. Meditel and Inwi also offer LTE in select cities as of June 2015
Seychelles: Airtel deployed a 4G/LTE network in November 2014
Kenya: Safaricom launched LTE-Advanced in December 2014. Airtel and Orange are allowed to test 4G
Madagascar: Blueline launched 4G LTE (Wi-Fi) in January 2015 in select areas (mainly the capital). Telma launched 4G in 50 cities in June 2015
Botswana: Spurred by regional competition (Angola, Namibia) Mascom began a 4G pilot project in mid-2012 and launched commercial LTE in February 2015. Orange also launched LTE in early 2015
Ethiopia: Ethio Telecom launched 4G service in March 2015
Malawi: 4G LTE is available in parts of Blantyre from Access Communications. Tazca Connects offers similar service in Lilongwe
Gambia: Netpage launched LTE fixed-wireless in April 2015
Benin: be.Telecoms officially launched commercial LTE in December 2015 after deploying throughout the year. Numerous cities have coverage
Cameroon: MTN launched 4G LTE in four cities in late 2015
Guinea-Bissau: Orange launched LTE in Bissau on December 23rd, 2015
Somalia: Somcable launched 4G LTE-A in January 2016
Egypt: Announced with help of Ericsson by early 2016
DRC: Smile has plans to launch LTE in 2016. Afrimax Group is planning to deploy a TD-LTE network
Libya: Al Jeel, a smaller ISP, talked about launching LTE in the near future, but it won’t be until at least 2016
Guinea: Sotelgui expects LTE soon
Togo: TogoCel was to launch 4G service in 2015
Chad: Tigo was testing 4G LTE in N’Djamena in July 2014
Tunisia: Ooredoo is testing 4G in two cities. Tunisie Telecom is testing as well. Commercial 4G LTE will roll-out in 2016
Sudan: Zain is obtained government permission to launch a commercial LTE network in Khartoum
Cape Verde: The regulator is taking steps to issue 4G LTE licenses and spectrum
Comoros: Telma is to launch 4G at the end of 2016