Airtel 4G coverage in Nigeria was zero at the end of 2016, the year that competitors rolled out their 4G services in Africa’s largest mobile market. But the operator has caught up and now has the widest 4G coverage in the country.
A year ago, Airtel 4G was conspicuously absent anywhere in Nigeria. Competing mobile networks like MTN, Etisalat, and Glo had all launched 4G LTE services as far back as 2016. 4G-only networks like Ntel and InterC had joined Smile on the scene as well.
It is not that the network was averse to deploying 4G LTE in Africa. It had launched its first 4G LTE service in Seychelles as far back as 2014, and had 4G ready in Kenya in 2015. 2016 was the year of 4G in Nigeria, and Airtel was not in the game, and Airtel 4G coverage in Nigeria was zero.
Yet, as we rush towards the end of 2018 at full speed, Airtel’s 4G coverage in Nigeria is the widest. The red network successfully rolled out its first 4G network this year and has spread its tentacles to cover 60 towns and cities in 16 states across Nigeria.
That is wider than Glo 4G and wider than MTN 4G. How did Airtel Nigeria pull it off in less than 10 months?
From Zero to 60 in 10 months
In 2017, the mobile network announced that it had entered into a partnership with ZTE to have the Chinese telecom equipment company rollout 4G service for them. No timeline was given at the time.
But in early 2018, subscribers in Ibadan, Oyo State, began to report that their smartphones were picking up 4G signals on the Airtel network. Finally, it was happening. But why Ibadan? What of Lagos?
Airtel was following a gameplan that had already been executed by another 4G provider and chosen Ibadan as the first location on their 4G coverage map. In February 2018, Airtel 4G was launched in the city, to the horror and anger of subscribers in Lagos. Lagosians were used to getting everything first, you see.
And from that point on, it has been activation after activation of 4G services from city to city and town to town across Nigeria.
Airtel 4G Lagos Launch
A press event was held in Lagos on Wednesday that also doubled as Airtel 4G Lagos launch. It was more of a ceremonial cum bragging event, as Airtel 4G has been active in Lagos for some months now. I remember going to do a SIM swap to get a 4G-compatible SIM card so I could try out the service when the service showed up.
And Airtel Nigeria indeed has plenty to brag about. They pulled off an amazing feat of catching up with the competition and leaving them in the dust in terms of coverage. Very impressive.
Airtel says they have been deliberate about the speed of their 4G rollout, making it possible for them to achieve the widest 4G coverage in the country.
Airtel 4G coverage in Nigeria
Airtel’s 4G LTE coverage in Nigeria currently includes 60 locations in the following states:
- Akwa Ibom
- FCT Abuja
- Cross River.
This means subscribers can get faster mobile internet at these locations by purchasing Airtel 4G data plans for use on their 4G smartphones, modems and mi-fi devices. In easy-to-understand terms, 4G is a technology that delivers faster internet services over a mobile network.
The race to 100 cities
At the Airtel 4G Lagos launch event on Wednesday, Airtel Nigeria’s CEO reiterated that the company would continue to be relentless in their 4G rollout across the country and that other locations would be added within intervals of months.
He said the next target is a 4G coverage of 100 cities by March 2019. Seeing what Airtel Nigeria has pulled off already with its 4G rollout, that is not difficult to believe at all.