Telecommunications service provider, Airtel Nigeria, has announced a major upgrade and overhaul on its network infrastructure nationwide in a move to ensure it’s over 50 million customers continue to enjoy the best experience on voice calls and mobile Internet services.

As part of the exercise, Airtel has upgraded all its 2G and 3G sites to 4G to deliver expansive mobile broadband and a flawless voice call experience.

Speaking on the network expansion and upgrade exercise, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Airtel Nigeria, Surendran Chemmenkotil, said Airtel is focused on ensuring that customers continue to enjoy the best experience on the network, while also noting that the company is committed to taking mobile broadband everywhere including the remotest rural location in the country.

“Our commitment is to our customers and we are focused on ensuring that they continue to get the right and best experience on our network. This exercise is inspired by the fact that we want to serve our customers better and we also want to contribute significantly to deepening broadband expansion in Nigeria as this has a direct correlation to GDP and economic productivity of a country.

“Therefore, we will continue to support the Federal Government agenda of increasing and expanding the penetration of broadband in the country, he said.”

MEANWHILE, a whitepaper, titled: “Towards a flourishing digital economy for all – a spotlight on Africa,” published by Mobile World Live in partnership with the Department for International Trade and collaboration with the Global System for Mobile telecommunications Association (GSMA), has put 4G subscribers in Nigeria at nine per cent; 3G 61 per cent and 2G 30 per cent. It claimed that there are 104 million unique mobile subscribers in the country.

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When the same metrics are compared with other countries, the whitepaper puts unique mobile subscribers in South Africa at 40.2 million; 2G users at 20 per cent; 3G users at 46 per cent, while 4G has 34 per cent. In Egypt, there are 70.4 million unique mobile subscribers; 17 per cent 2G subscribers; 57 per cent 3G users and 26 per cent 4G users.

Kenya, according to the whitepaper has 28.4 million unique mobile customers; 43 per cent 2G subscribers; 46 per cent 3G users and 11 per cent 4G subscribers.

The report stressed that connectivity has increased sharply across Africa in recent years, though the speed of connection varies greatly from country to country.

According to it, in the more advanced regions, the majority of those connections are on 3G. “For example, GSMA Intelligence data for 2020 shows 61 per cent of mobile Internet users in Nigeria are on 3G, and 57 per cent of those in Egypt. Meanwhile, 2G connections are still significant in some countries (Kenya: 43 per cent), but 5G is yet to arrive aside from in very small numbers in South Africa.”

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Still, for all the progress, Africa remains the least connected region in the world. The GSMA State of Mobile Internet Connectivity 2021 report revealed a third of people in sub-Saharan Africa will be using mobile Internet by 2022, rising to nearly 40 per cent by 2025.

But as of 2020, one in five people (210m) had no mobile broadband coverage. A key reason for this is that they live in remote and rural locations. However, the whitepaper noted that connecting them is less of a technical challenge and more of an economic one. It stressed that in these settings, the cost of building and maintaining network infrastructure can be double that for urban deployments – while revenues can be 10 times lower.

For smartphone connections, the report noted that in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), smartphones account for fewer than half of total mobile connections. It explained that the cost of an Internet-enabled handset is an enduring problem.

It noted that SSA has the least affordable handsets of any region. The global median cost of the cheapest Internet-enabled handset, as a percentage of monthly GDP is 19 per cent. In SSA it is 26.5 per cent.