The reality of MTN’s ‘successful’ 4G LTE launch

mtn-bannerThe MTN Zambia launch of 4G LTE technology in the country was done with much funfair surrounding it. If you don’t know that there are 4G services available along the line of rail by now, particularly in the city of Lusaka, then you are probably living under a rock. Amid all the excitement, it’s still important to investigate just how accessible this 4G service is.

Therefore, yesterday we did a couple of rounds at MTN stores in Lusaka and asked a couple of questions that you wouldn’t necessarily find out on the FAQ list. For instance, where does the service work? Apparently, you are not able to access 4G LTE internet just anywhere in the cities where the technology has been rolled out. You need to be strategically located near MTN sites where this service is being transmitted. Furthermore, distance is key. 800 metres is the magic number. Although you may be located in those areas, it is vital to maintain a certain distance within the range of the network. Take a look at the table below:

Table showing access points
Table showing MTN 4G LTE access zones

Additionally, we still can’t get over the fact that you need to swap your sim card or purchase a new one altogether, in order to enjoy wicked fast internet speeds. It just seems like a lot of work. It was also a bit disappointing to discover that the internet bundle packages remain unchanged despite the upgrades. Reason being that, the faster the internet, the quicker your data gets depleted. Therefore, for something of 4G’s magnitude, bigger bundles at affordable prices are recommended, specifically unlimited internet with fair use policy of course. If a data hungry consumer is what MTN is trying to cultivate, then they need to offer the bone to entice them. Furthermore, we dare question just how ready MTN Zambia was to launch 4G LTE service. Yes, they may have had procured the technology, but how useful is it when it’s not widely accessible? The smartphone penetration is still embryonic, what more of 4G LTE enabled devices? After all, mobile phone dealers would not have paid too much attention to import 4G devices in a market where we only had 3G at the time.

It would have been useful to see questions on MTN’s FAQ list such as: Can I make and receive phonecalls or SMS’ on my device while using LTE? Wait for it… the answer to this question is no! Moreover, a question that would have benefited from a detailed answer on the list is: Do I need to configure my LTE device? MTN says, “No you don’t. However, your device may require you to check your radio/network settings.” But which radio/networks settings should one look out for?

As exhilarating as all this 4G LTE internet bonanza is, we wonder, is it better to have inaccessible latest technologies or the same improved and perfected technology like 3G for instance? We have heard all the hoopla but we have not even heard the speeds at which 4G LTE is operating. Is it 10Mbps or is it 300Mbps? Consequently, our next task will be to test the speeds and let you all know the juicy data stats.

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