50% of the African population to be covered by LTE networks by 2018
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50% of the African population to be covered by LTE networks by 2018

By the end of 2018, half the African population will be covered by LTE networks, as LTE base station deployment swells at a CAGR [compound annual growth rate] of 40% over the next five years, according to ABI Research (http://www.abiresearch.com).

However, LTE network population coverage will be far from homogenous across the region, with a few countries such as Angola and Namibia nearing the halfway point already while wealthier nations like Botswana and Gabon have yet to deploy the advanced technology, says the research group.

"Part of the underlying reason for this digital divide is the different types of initiatives driving LTE roll-out," says Ying Kang Tan, research associate, ABI Research. "We expect wholesale or shared networks such as the joint venture between the Rwandan government and Korea Telecom and the public-private partnership proposed by the Kenyan government to spur LTE deployment. While the public-private partnership has stalled, the government is considering a spectrum sharing agreement to resolve the matter. Other initiatives such as a pure LTE operator, Smile, will also introduce new dynamics into the wireless market.:

Meanwhile, African LTE cellular subscriptions are projected to multiply at a CAGR of 128% to surpass 50 million at the end of 2018 — nearly half are expected to be able to use VoLTE services.

"What makes this exponential subscription growth possible is the increasing affordability of LTE handsets a few years down the road," says Jake Saunders, ABI Research vice president and practice director. "LTE handset shipments will increase by 75% annually on average in the next five years. Given the poor fixed-line infrastructure, people will depend on the wireless network for Internet access. There is a strong business case for mobile operators to roll-out LTE early to take advantage of the opportunity."

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