African Consumers Prefer To Stick With 3G Phones

5G Phones To be In Africa By 2020

African woman in a yellow shirt texting message with mobile phone
African woman in a yellow shirt texting message with mobile phone (Photo Credit:

Despite a drop in the prices of entry-level 4G phones, 2G and 3G mobile devices remain far more economical, making it difficult for operators to migrate clients over to newer technologies, says Ramazan Yavuz, a research manager at International Data Corporation (IDC).

IDC’s research shows that 4G LTE networks are spreading their reach in Africa, with shipments of 4G LTE devices increasing 11.8% QoQ in Q2 2018 to constitute 62.6% of the smartphone market.

But African consumers are not adopting 4G LTE devices in big numbers.

“Price sensitivity means that many African consumers prefer to stick with 3G phones, and this is likely to continue until 4G devices fall to a price point where they are affordable to a much larger segment of the continent’s consumer base,” says Yavuz.

Mobile phone operator MTN is preoccupied with delivering 3G services to its customers across the African market and in no rush for super-fast 5G mobile broadband internet services.

MTN customers in the fast-developing continent are still using 2G and 3G mobile phone handsets.

But MTN is in no hurry to bring 5G services across its African markets.

“This is still a 3G story, you know,” Rob Shuter, MTN Group CEO, recently told delegates at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) summit in Durban, South Africa, .

For More Read: MTN Is Still Innovating For 3G Services In Africa

“Yes, 4G is still important. 5G will come. But the reality in our markets (Africa) is that 90% of the devices are 3G. And then will not change overnight.”

MTN Nigeria
MTN Nigeria (Photo Credit:

Feature Phones Dominate Africa Market

The IDC added that the feature phone market was down 1.1% QoQ and 5.8% YoY in Q2 2018, but – with shipments totaling 31.4 million units – these devices still constitute a 58.3% share of Africa’s overall mobile phone market.

The feature phones cater to the needs of the continent’s huge low-income population (mainly in rural areas) by providing basic mobile communications that are priced very competitively.

Generation of this Mobile phone, 2G. on white background. kriang phromphim /
Generation of this Mobile phone, 2G. on white background. kriang phromphim /

IDC said Telco and Itel continued to lead feature phone category in Q2 2018 with a combined unit share of 59.9%, followed in third place by HMD on 9.0%.

Looking ahead, IDC expects Africa’s overall mobile phone market to grow 2.6% QoQ in Q3 2018, with overall shipments to increase slightly through 2018, leading to YoY growth of 0.4% for the year as a whole.

5G Phones To be In Africa By 2020

“IDC predicts that 5G phones will reach the market in 2020, when rollouts of 5G networks will start in select African countries,” says Yavuz.

“However, demand for feature phones is unlikely to be impacted significantly as these devices will continue to serve a purpose in areas with no LTE coverage.”


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