Nokia Networks Nigeria country manager Sam Nwosu said LTE deployments in the country remain low because of a lack of compatible handsets and low consumer income.
Nwosu told Nigeria's Sun newspaper that most people in the country still exist on a daily wage of $1 (€0.89) or less, making it hard to sell the investment case for LTE rollouts to operators. At the same time, a lack of affordable, LTE-compatible smartphones is making the technology a tough sell in the consumer sector.
"To join the 4G revolution, we need to have smartphones that are configured to work with 4G networks," Nwosu explained.
He cited recent figures from research company Ovum that show the proportion of 3G subscribers in Nigeria grew from 12 per cent in the third quarter of 2013 to 16 per cent in the same period of 2014 as evidence of the growing demand for data services in a market where mobile broadband is likely to be the first point of access for many consumers due to a lack of fixed line infrastructure.
While some operators in the market have enjoyed success with WiMAX networks, Nwosu noted that the technology is as affected by a lack of compatible handsets as LTE. Another limiting factor is an inability to roam when using WiMAX, he explained.
"WiMAX s basically dead in the woods and any operator still on WiMAX should be thinking of migrating quickly to LTE because very soon, they will have neither equipment nor device support," Nwosu told the Sun.
Nokia Networks recently told the Nigeria Communications Commission--Nigeria's telecom regulator--that spectrum harmonisation is necessary to promote next generation mobile networks and services. Nwosu said spectrum allocations are currently fragmented and suggested smaller operators may merge, or be bought out, as spectrum consolidation takes place.
The Finland-based equipment vendor named Nigeria as a "priority country" in March 2014, when it announced it was expanding its presence with the opening of a new office in the country's largest city Lagos, and an overhaul of its existing office in capital city Abuja.
At the time Igor Leprince, Nokia Networks' SVP for Middle East and Africa, said the company was "ready to deliver large-scale mobile broadband rollouts in Nigeria."
LTE deployments in Africa are growing; recent figures from Ovum show the number of networks deployed increased from 22 in mid-2014 to 34 by February. Many operators on the continent are also bypassing 3G and moving straight to LTE, as they seek to address a lack of fixed-line infrastructure and capitalise on consumers' familiarity with mobile access.
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