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Rwanda opens broadband market as MTN, Airtel unveil 4G

By , Africa editor
Rwanda , 25 Jul 2023
Airtel Rwanda MD, Emmanuel Hamez.
Airtel Rwanda MD, Emmanuel Hamez.

Rwanda’s two mobile operators, MTN and Airtel, this week hit a milestone by launching 4G LTE networks in the East African nation.

The launch comes after Rwanda’s government reversed its previous decision to depend on a single wholesale network for 4G, 5G and future communications technologies.

In 2013, a venture deal between Korea Telecom, holding 51 percent stake, and Rwanda’s government, owning 49 percent, resulted in the formation of Korea Telecom Rwanda Networks (KTRN), which held the 25-year wholesale monopoly licence.

However, as part of its new national broadband policy and strategy, the government reversed its licensing decision last year to allow more players into the market. To this end, MTN and Airtel unveiled 4G networks, just days apart.

Airtel Rwanda was the first mobile operator to obtain its 4G licence. The company’s MD, Emmanuel Hamez, said: “The launch of our very own 4G LTE network is a demonstration of our commitment to the provision of access to affordable quality connectivity services to all Rwandans.”

MTN Rwanda, which has over 60 percent market share, initially announced its 4G plans in May, when it reported its 2023 first-quarter performance.

This week, MTN said the introduction of 4G technology will provide improved connectivity, faster data speeds and pave the way for improved internet access.

Mapula Bodibe, CEO, MTN Rwanda, commented: “By launching the next generation 4G LTE technology, we are not only investing in the network, but we are also, and most importantly, investing in leading digital solutions for Rwanda’s progress.”

As at the end of March, MTN Rwanda had 6.9 million mobile subscribers, 2.2 million active data subscribers, and 4.4 million mobile money subscribers, while Airtel Rwanda had almost four million mobile subscribers.

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