LTE short for ‘Long Term Evolution’, but marketed as 4G LTE, is a standard for wireless communication of high-speed data for mobile phones and data terminals. It is an advancement on previous wireless technology standards including GSM/EDGE, HSDPA and HSDPA+, and has been developed and rolled out to consumers to enhance network speeds and throughput on communication across Africa.
LTE is acknowledged to be an evolutionary technology and latest standard within the development of global wireless mobile broadband communication. Mobile network operators across Africa have claimed to have rolled out LTE and 4G on their networks. In South Africa, operators like Vodacom, MTN, 8ta and Cell C have announced their readiness to move subscribers closer to LTE.
Vodacom was the first to announce that they have officially made the service available to local customers in Johannesburg.
In Kenya LTE connectivity is expected to serve as replacement technology for regions throughout the country. Authorities have made public efforts to establish national coverage before next year and have all counties connected.
There have also been a number of announcements about LTE trials in countries like DRC, Ghana and Zambia.
Amith Maharaj, 8ta South Africa Senior Managing Executive, says, “LTE as a technology is a reality. Whether everyone has rolled out and has it commercially available, depends on what you as a consumer or you as a business deem commercial rollout. So is it 50 sites that warrant it to be a network out there or 200 or 300? But it is here – three of the networks in the country already have LTE sites up. As the definition goes, the true sense of 4G will come with LTE advanced, a progressive step, the technology there is not fully mature yet, but you can look at minimum of 100 Mbps being that qualifier. So, yes, 4G is not here today, but it is an incremental jump and not a big leap.”
However, in order for Africa to take the ‘big leap’, the issue of management of spectrum has to be sorted out.
“Regulators define and allocate the spectrum. Usually the spectrum is managed by the telecoms and broadcast regulation authorities. In some cases both segment are separated and there are two separate regulatory bodies. Depending on the countries, the regulators can either have the last say and issue the spectrum or they may have their decision approved by the ministry in charge of the telecommunications,” says Thecla Mbongue, Senior analyst for Informa Telecoms & Media in South Africa.