By end-2018, half the African population will be covered by LTE networks, as LTE base station deployment swells at a CAGR of 40 percent over the next five years, according to a new report from ABI Research.

Abit said the 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.

Ying Kang Tan, a research associate for ABI, saiod that part of the underlying reason for the digital divide is the different types of initiatives driving LTE rollout. 

“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," Tan said. "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.”

ABI expects LTE cellular subscriptions to multiply at a CAGR of 128 percent, surpassing 50 million at the end of 2018. Nearly half of those subscribers 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,” noted Jake Saunders, vice president and practice director. “LTE handset shipments will increase by 75 percent 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.”