Interview: Steven Kirenga talks about MTN’s 4G journey in Uganda

Steven Kirenga is the Enterprise Marketing Manager of MTN Uganda, a tech enthusiast and local developer supporter. PC Tech Magazine’s Jeddy Genrwot caught up with him to understand MTN’s 4G journey so far. 

In July last year, MTN Uganda launched the first countrywide 4G network coverage in the country, a result of more than 2 years of substantial infrastructural development for Uganda’s telecom industry leader.

Steven, MTN has been praised to have the best internet speeds in the country – 4G speeds – tell us how has been the adoption rate of this?

The adoption has been impressive so far. The market has responded well to the call of upgrading to the fastest and widest 4G network. It’s clear our customers want more than fast speed, they want the fastest speed available in Uganda and we are happy that they resonated well with our message and joined our LTE.

Further testimony to this is Corporates and public institutions that have used MTN’s 4G to improve their efficiency owing to the reliability that comes with MTN’s service.  They are now able to do more in less time.

Last year’s rollout of 4G/LTE ensured that we covered all major towns, including Kampala (MTN has increased the number of sites in Kampala from 80 in 2015 to over 120 in 2016) , Entebbe, Mbale, Mbarara, Lira, Arua, Gulu, Kabale, Kasese, Fort Portal, Moroto, Masaka and Jinja. This in addition to the already existing country-wide coverage of 3G.

Customers like to download videos and music; playing games, sharing photos and streaming sports content, all on their mobile devices and have a need for enhanced and uninterrupted experience.  With MTN’s 4G, MTN promises to offer an enhanced and seamless user experience, lower latency and high spectral efficiency. This also means that a higher number of data users can be serviced without compromising the quality of service they receive.

What is more is that customers love the convenience that comes with the fall back to 3G or 2G in areas where there is no 4G.

Steven Kirenga
Steven Kirenga – Enterprise Marketing Manager, MTN Uganda

What are the challenges hindering LTE adoption in Uganda today?

Well, the cost of 4G devices is still a challenge. Industry wide, the cost of 4G devices is still high as most OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) haven’t diversified their 4G portfolio.

Nonetheless, MTN continues to engage OEMs to ensure that we get the right 4 G devices are the right cost. Additionally, inspite of the above challenges, MTN continues to provide the best smartphones at the best prices.

We also have a range of promotional devices including dongles, routers, Wingles, Mi-FIs and phones that customers can purchase at very competitive prices and straight away start experiencing faster speeds on our 4G network. We are committed to consolidating our position as the network of choice for the best device deals, the widest and fastest 4G coverage in Uganda.

DOWNLOAD: MTN Uganda’s 4G Devices Magazine

The issue of cost continues to be a factor in MTN’s journey of enabling our customers’ lifestyle through the provision of fast and reliable internet.

There is a combination of factors that have kept the industry price points at the current level. One would have to consider the cost of infrastructure that delivers the internet to Uganda, the cost of maintaining infrastructure including fibre cables that are continually vandalized, etc. MTN has been a leader in this space, demonstrated by its investment in the largest 3G and 4G networks in Uganda.

Not all hope is lost though, as we continue to increase internet use in the region, we shall see the cost decrease as we start to benefit from synergies and economies of scale.

Additionally, we continue to lobby the government to support telecommunication companies in reducing the associated transmission costs that are required in ensuring Ugandan customers have reliable internet.

MTN Uganda, notwithstanding these challenges, has led the market in ensuring that the cost of internet is relatively priced, through last year’s reduction of its internet bundle pricing, making MTN’s bundle pricing one the most affordable in the market, in light of the challenges shared. And indeed to which competition has had to respond. In addition, MTN offers even more value through the very affordable night bundles that enable customers to use exceptionally high volumes within a limited time, to satisfy that once in a while near unlimited or higher data need that would fall out of their regular usage. These are available for immediate purchase whenever you need them, using airtime, mobile money and the now popular MyMTN mobile money app available on Google Play store and Apple App store.

We expect internet use to keep increasing. Our aim is to continue enabling the lives of our customers by demystifying the concept of internet through the provision of high-speed and far reaching internet. From keeping in touch on social media to enabling corporates and governments through e-governance, e-health, e-legal, to mention but a few.

Technology keeps evolving. MTN pledges keep at the forefront of it. That is who we are, we strive to the best for those we consider the best, our customers. MTN led the way with the introduction of 3G speeds (7.2Mbps, 21Mbps, and 42Mbps) and now the first telecom to provide nation-wide 4G/LTE in Uganda. MTN will continue to look for opportunities and efficiencies to ensure increased affordability and accessibility for its Data services.

How does 4G data uptake compare to 3G in Uganda so far?

MTN 3G is obviously higher owing to the fact that it a technology that was launched before 4G. 4G’s uptake is aggressively growing and we hope to have as many customers on 3G as we have on 4G.

Airtel recently announced plans to launch its 4G network. What does this mean for MTN, and for the industry in general?

We welcome the move as it represents the positive development of internet provision in the country. Having another player provide 4G, after MTN pioneered 4G in the industry is testament to the market needs as they relate to internet.

MTN will continue to roll out other sites as we keep true to our customer promise of giving them the widest and fastest 4G network in Uganda.

What is the biggest data driver in Uganda today?

I would say the biggest data driver would social media. Streaming & entertainment sites, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat to mention but a few.

With this insight, MTN has shared with the market innovative products like WTF and MTN’s Night Shift that speak to the customer needs.

Do you think 3G will become obsolete among Ugandan internet users in the coming years?

Barring the challenges associated with rolling out 4G as earlier discussed above, 4G will be become dominant in years to come.


Jeddy Genrwot

Jeddy "The Jedi" is a budding professional with extensive conceptual knowledge in Web Development technologies and Computer Systems. "In like" with the Internet Startup space and cloud computing. A passionate gamer and social media enthusiast.
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