DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) – Many parts of the world are not ready for next-generation 5G networks but would likely be ready to embrace the super-fast technology in the next few years, MTN’s chief executive said on Tuesday.
5G, now in the final testing stage, will rely on denser arrays of small antennas and the cloud to offer data speeds up to 50 or 100 times faster than current 4G networks and serve as critical infrastructure for a range of industries.
“This is the technology that would be used for very specific cases. It would not be a technology for everybody because most people don’t need it, your phone works fine on just 3G,” Rob Shuter told Reuters at a telecoms conference in Durban.
“You also need the equipment itself. So right now there’s no 5G handsets and even the routers that can receive 5G network are very few and very expensive.”
Many of MTN’s users in emerging markets across Africa and the Middle East are still awaiting 4G and are likely to have to get by with 3G connections for years more.
“What we are doing now is to learn from the technology and get our network ready for it but I think 3G is much more relevant in most of our markets,” he said.
Shuter declined to comment on his company’s multibillion dollar dispute with Nigeria authorities because the matter is before a court in the west African country.
MTN operates in more than 20 frontier markets including war-ravaged Syria and Afghanistan, which account for a third of its annual core profit.
EDITED TO ADD [Sept 12]: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated in the opening paragraph that Rob Shuter was talking exclusively about the continent of Africa not being ready for 5G, and that he said it was about five years away rather than a few years. Reuters regrets the error.
(Reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by James Macharia)