More 5G activity has been reported in two very different markets in West Africa: Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, and Gabon, whose population, at an estimated 2.1 million, is a little over one hundredth the size of Nigeria’s.
Both, however, have recently been trialling 5G alongside some familiar names. According to local press reports, MTN Nigeria, which is Nigeria’s largest operator by subscribers, has demonstrated 5G mobile communications in three major cities: the capital, Abuja, in the centre of the country, the most populous city, Lagos, in the southwest, and Calabar, which is in the southeast.
The reports indicate that the live demonstrations brought together the federal government with vendors Huawei in Abuja, Ericsson in Lagos and ZTE in Calabar.
The 5G tests are said to be using frequencies in the 26GHz band – allocated to MTN by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). The tests using this trial spectrum will continue for three months.
Gabon Telecom, also the largest mobile operator in an admittedly much less populous country, has announced that it has begun testing of a 5G network at three sites in the capital, Libreville. The local press reports from which this news originates also indicate that frequencies in the 3400MHz to 3500MHz band will be used and that the trial will be carried out over six months, using equipment supplied by Nokia and Huawei.
Although the aim is to see how 5G might be used to develop innovative applications, Gabon Telecom has indicated that an actual commercial launch could be a few years off.
This isn’t particularly surprising. Given that many African countries are still moving to 4G, the generation after that will not necessarily have a big market for some years. Nevertheless, as recent news reports indicate, there are already a number of African operators keen to assess the potential 5G future, however long term.