MTN Uganda has gone live with the commercial availability of a 4G LTE network just four months after it made the announcement it would be available this year.
The Ugandan operation is the second after South Africa in the MTN Group's operations to launch LTE -- a standard for wireless communication of high-speed data for data terminals and mobile phones.
At a continental level, a number of telcos have deployed LTE in what looks like a growing trend.
Leading the way was Angola's Movicel and Namibia's MTC. Next was Mauritius' second-largest mobile operator, Emtel, which launched its commercial LTE service at the end of May last year.
Emtel was closely followed by Smile Communications in Tanzania, which launched the service in June last year. With its LTE presence, MTN Uganda now has a mix of offerings in terms of speed from a high of 100Mbps that LTE offers, 42Mbps that was made available a few months ago, and 21.6Mbps based on its 3G+ network.
"We are happy to claim another first in Uganda with this momentous announcement as MTN Uganda successfully launches its 4G LTE network offering world-class internet services to our customers," Ernst Fonternel, the chief marketing officer said.
"What is even more pleasing is that we've done this ahead of many other advanced economies around the world."
LTE is increasingly considered the best network option for telecom companies in Africa, as it helps to conserve radio spectrum. The LTE network infrastructure upgrade will enable users to access speeds up to 100Mbps, according to Mazen Mroué, the chief executive officer MTN Uganda.
"The higher LTE speeds will give our customers lower latency which translates into a much more stable user experience. The technology's impressive speeds create endless possibilities for the user including instantaneous music and picture downloads," Fonternel said.
MTN's challenge is not keeping ahead of the other operators, Fonternel said. "It's keeping ahead of the tidal wave of data demand both in this country and in the region," he said.
The launch of LTE represents a major stride in mobile connectivity capabilities in Uganda.
The service offers almost triple the speed of any existing mobile connection available commercially in Uganda and in the region.
China's Huawei has provided the technology that will initially be available in a limited area before it gets rolled out in other parts of the country where MTN will see demand.
Fonternel said that the commercial launch of LTE is part of a bigger network transformation plan that MTN has been undertaking over the past few years in order to give its customers world-class services.
Over the last two years, MTN has made major investments to its data infrastructure in Uganda, expanded the mobile distribution foot print, and greatly enhanced the mobile core, radio capacity and network infrastructure.
London-based research firm Informa Telecoms & Media forecasts that nearly 350,000 LTE subscriptions came online in Africa at the end of last year. The subscription figures are expected to increase to around 40 million by the end of 2017 with new launches expected in Nigeria this year.