The advent of 5G networks represents a major milestone in telecommunications infrastructure across the globe. As one of Africa’s largest mobile operators with over 76 million subscribers, MTN’s rollout of 5G services is highly anticipated in the Nigerian market. However, specific details regarding pricing and accessibility have yet to be officially confirmed by MTN Nigeria.
As a telecoms expert with over 15 years of experience advising Nigerian firms on business strategy and organizational development, I have deep insights into the local landscape. In this article, I will analyze the latest updates around MTN’s 5G deployment in Nigeria, provide projections on potential pricing models, and answer some frequently asked questions around this next-generation network.
Overview of 5G in the Nigerian Market
Thus far, 5G deployments have been focused primarily in Europe, the Americas, Australia and parts of Asia. The infrastructure demands around 5G are immense, requiring investments of $890 billion globally over the next decade according to GSMA Intelligence. For context, that is more than the GDP of Argentina or the Netherlands!
Here in Nigeria, 5G-suitable spectrum has yet to be allocated by the government and official licenses acquired by telcos. However, MTN has already begun conducting 5G trials in select locations, using temporary spectrums granted by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
These locations include the MTN headquarters in Ikoyi, Lagos and Gbagada General Hospital. Speed tests during these trials have achieved up to 1.6 Gbps, massively higher than existing 4G LTE networks. However, widespread accessibility remains constrained without officially allocated spectrum for commercial availability.
According to latest announcements, the NCC expects to conclude its 5G spectrum auction process by Q1 2023. This indicates commercial launches could commence from Q2 2023 onwards across leading telcos like MTN, Airtel, Glo and others.
Potential Pricing for 5G MTN Data and Devices
Since there has been no official release yet from MTN Nigeria regarding 5G services and pricing, any figures remain speculative. However, based on precedents within more mature 5G markets globally and recent data package changes locally, we can derive certain educated projections.
5G Data Pricing
For starters, it is unlikely MTN Nigeria will charge subscribers specifically for access to the 5G network itself. Based on developments globally, 5G tends to augment existing 4G networks first before eventually overtaking as the de facto connectivity solution.
What is more likely is MTN Nigeria gradually begins encouraging customers to upgrade their existing data bundles to higher value plans which support 5G connectivity speeds. Initially, this could come in the form of MoreData-style bonus bandwidth incentives when signed onto 5G compatible SIMs and devices.
In terms of baseline data pricing, the December 2022 hike in pricing for legacy data bundles provides an indication:
- 1GB weekly bundle increased 21% to N300
- 2GB monthly bundle increased 12.2% to N1,000
Applying similar proportionate increases to higher value bundles:
- 5GB monthly bundle could be N2,500+
- 10GB monthly bundle could be N4,500+
However, since 5G introduces massively higher network speeds and capacities, larger data allowance increases of 50% or more could also be justified:
- 5GB monthly bundle could be as high as N3,500+
- 10GB monthly bundle could potentially exceed N6,000+
Ultimately, the premium that subscribers are willing to pay for significantly faster data speeds will dictate retail 5G data pricing. MTN will balance affordability considerations for the Nigerian consumer against acceptable returns on its infrastructure investments.
I project an initial standard for MTN 5G bundles will be in the range of N600 per 1GB of data based on global benchmarks. This would place a hypothetical 50GB bundle at around N30,000 per month – very much at the higher end of pricing suitable for Nigerian incomes. More pragmatic 5G data bundles are likely to start at tiered volumes of 5GB, 10GB and 20GB levels.
5G-Compatible Device Costs
The other major consideration for accessing 5G networks will be compatible devices, such as smartphones and modem/routers. Only products with 5G-enabled chipsets will be able to leverage the superfast connectivity speeds.
Local retailers have already begun importing select 5G devices over the past year in anticipation of network launches. However, the costs for these early smartphone models remain prohibitively high:
- Xiaomi Mi 10 5G (2020 model) – priced around ₦270,000+
- Samsung Galaxy S21 Series (2021/2022 models) – ₦400,000+
Mid-range models are sparse currently, but pricing is projected to decrease steadily as technology standardizes and economy of scale kicks in:
- Redmi Note 11 5G (2022 model) could likely retail between ₦120k to ₦150k
MTN will need to ensure its affordable data bundle tiers align with mid-range device pricing expected to dominate the 5G smartphone market here in Nigeria through 2025. This includes optimizing data speeds for 3.5GHz and C-band spectrum versus mmWave compatibility only seen in more premium smartphones.
Again, no official pricing has been confirmed yet by MTN Nigeria. But based on global benchmarks and preceding smartphone launches, Redmi Note-type models will drive mass adoption, packaged with data bundles in the ₦5k to ₦15k monthly range. Higher data allocations may be required to fully leverage peak 5G network speeds.
Projected Timelines for MTN 5G Rollout
In line with recent commentary from MTN Nigeria CEO Karl Toriola, the staggered rollout plan for 5G implementation is likely as follows:
- Initial trial networks go commercial after spectrum auction concludes and licenses awarded.
- Launch likely to coincide with October 2023 deadline for 5G rollout in at least 1 state per region in Nigeria. Specific launch state per region still unconfirmed.
- Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Kano and Kaduna could get early coverage given MTN’s enterprise and data center presence.
- Coverage concentrated on high-density urban areas first before widening to other cities and towns.
- 5G Population coverage target could be 10-20% by end of 2023 within enabled states.
- Expands to cover at least 5 states across 6 regions in line with NCC roadmap by 2025. Targeting total coverage > 50% population.
- Scale network rollout to wider Nigerian geography leveraging fiber infrastructure for transport.
- Continue overlaying enhanced 5G options leveraging higher mmWave spectrum bands as device costs decline.
- Average data consumption per 5G subscriber estimated to reach 50GB+ per month by 2025.
However, the knock-on economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and some security concerns around vandalism risks could hamper rollout timelines. Nonetheless, MTN is strongly positioned to accelerate Nigeria’s digital evolution.
Ongoing fiber rollout supporting over 25,000 km already installed provides essential groundwork for revenue-driving 5G services – particularly around Cloud, IoT and fixed-wireless access solutions.]
Concluding Insights on MTN 5G in Nigeria
As Africa’s leading operator by subscribers, MTN continues blazing the digital transformation trail, as evident by ongoing field trials among other recent milestones. While official details around pricing remain unconfirmed, educated projections around data bundles and compatible devices provide early guidance on cost expectations as rollout gathers momentum through 2023 / 2024.
Of course, smartphone model affordability for the mass market remains crucial for adoption. Therefore aggressive device partnerships and financing options could make or break the scale of MTN’s envisioned tech ecosystem.
Furthermore, arguments exist on whether 5G itself represents suitable value for investment in Nigeria currently – or if 4G network optimization and fiber penetration should take priority for now.
Nonetheless, MTN retains its long-term sights on next generation networks. Having myself advised leading Nigerian firms for over 15 years, I anticipate its typical strategic execution will likely carry the momentum forward towards unlocking new digital applications upon launch.
Frequently Asked Questions on 5G and MTN Nigeria
Here I address some common questions around 5G in Nigeria regarding pricing, speeds, devices, coverage and the impact of rollout for MTN subscribers:
What speeds will MTN’s 5G network have?
Based on trials thus far, expect early baseline speeds in the 100-500 Mbps ranges, going up to 1 Gbps+ depending on spectrum bands used, network load per area, and subscriber device capabilities. This represents 10 to 100x typical 4G speeds seen today.
How much data will 5G use?
The sheer speed of 5G networks allows devouring large data allocations quicker. Streaming Ultra HD video could expend > 2GB per hour. Subscribers wanting the full 5G experience should expect average monthly usage of >50GB.
Will 5G force me to upgrade my mobile device?
Yes, you will need a 5G-enabled mobile phone, router or modem to connect with the next-generation network. Additional spectrum support like mmWave compatibility will require more premium range models.
Which spectrum bands will MTN’s 5G use?
No exact details yet but sub-1GHz bands will likely support coverage, while 3.5GHz / C-band and some mmWave deliver speed. Device pricing must align with mass-market bands.
Will MTN install mini-masts everywhere for 5G?
Not mini-masts perse, but “small cells” will populate coverage holes between macro-mast clusters, especially important for higher mmWave signals. These help drive fiber deployment significantly too.
Can I use my 5G phone as a hotspot?
Yes, expect tethering capabilities. But don’t expect initial “unlimited data” type plans – to protect network stability amidst resource demands. Caps or speed throttling will apply.
Will 5G kill off slower networks?
No, progressive transition will see 5G augmentexisting 4G first. Thereafter, dynamic spectrum sharing and standalone 5G core infrastructure will enable gradual transition by around 2025. 2G and 3G networks will likely switch off thereafter.