Closing out the heavily 5G-focused 2018 Mobile World Congress, ZTE today announced partnerships with major carriers MTN and Ooredoo to bring 5G wireless technology to Africa and the Middle East. The goal of both deals is to accelerate 5G deployment across large geographic areas with diverse mobile infrastructures.
In this case, the companies and represented regions are equally noteworthy. Although China’s ZTE has recently received negative attention in the United States due to national security concerns, it is one of the world’s largest mobile hardware manufacturers and has aggressively pitched customers in Asia and South America with low-cost mobile hardware. At this year’s MWC, ZTE announced a complete end-to-end 5G product line and partnerships with over 20 Asian and European mobile operators.
While neither of the carriers is a household name outside of its own service regions, MTN has over 230 million subscribers across the Africa/Middle East region, and Ooredoo has over 164 million customers in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. In January, MTN partnered with Ericsson for Africa’s first 5G technology tests, achieving data rates of 20Gbps with under 5ms latency in MTN’s South Africa labs.
The partnership with ZTE includes network planning, testing, and business model development, all designed to bring 5G to MTN customers as soon as permissible by regulatory authorities. MTN currently offers mobile service in Afghanistan, Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, the Republic of Congo, Cyprus, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan, South Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Uganda, Yemen, and Zambia.
Ooredoo made regional headlines last year by launching what it called the world’s first 5G network in Qatar, promising VIP customers up to 1Gbps speeds — if they used a certain pre-standards 5G smartphone at a limited number of sites. Ooredoo currently offers 4G customers in Qatar access to a promised 325Mbps “Supernet” and is working to bring true 5G to Algeria, Indonesia, Iraq, Kuwait, Myanmar, the Maldives, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, and Tunisia. In addition to ZTE, Ooredoo has partnered with Nokia to bring standards-compliant 5G to the Middle East.