MTN’s impressive 5G rollout and massive data growth

MTN South Africa has rapidly expanded its 5G network during the first six months of 2022, the operator’s latest interim financial results have shown.

Between January 2022 and June 2022, MTN spent R3.2 billion on capital expenditure in South Africa, which included upscaling its 5G network.

By leveraging the spectrum in the 3,500MHz band it secured during Icasa’s high-demand frequency spectrum auction in March 2022, MTN could roll out 443 more 5G sites during the period.

That brought its total number of active 5G sites to 1,391, an increase of almost 47%.

MTN said it now covered nearly 20% of the country’s population with 5G and previously told MyBroadband it was targeting 25% coverage by the end of the year.

MTN first launched its 5G network at the end of June 2020, offering coverage in a handful of suburbs in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Bloemfontein.

As of June 2022, the operator had coverage in 38 cities and big towns across the country.

To illustrate how fast MTN has expanded its network, the images below compare MTN’s 5G coverage over time. The areas shown in red have MTN 5G coverage.

30 June 2020 — Launch

MTN 5G Gauteng

14 December 2020

MTN 5G_Gauteng

8 August 2021

MTN 5G Coverage

11 August 2022

MTN also said mobile data revenue increased by 14.6% during the first half of the year to reach R9.05 billion, contributing 45.1% of MTN South Africa’s total service revenue of roughly 24.78 billion.

“This performance was supported by an increase of 15.3% in active data subscribers to 18.1 million and a 41.5% year-on-year rise in traffic,” MTN explained.

Notably, the average active MTN prepaid data customer consumed 2.6GB of data per month, an increase of 24% compared to the same period last year.

Active postpaid data subscribers consumed nearly five times that amount — 12.5GB per month — which was a 26% higher average than between January 2021 and June 2021.

The operator said the growth in data traffic was driven by an 18.9% reduction in the effective data rate across all business units.

Enabling more 5G connectivity could allow MTN to continue growing mobile data usage.

Although 5G does not use more data than 4G to load the same content, studies like the one conducted by Open Signal have found that users with access to 5G tend to consume more data.

That could be because data-demanding applications like video streaming services can output at higher resolution due to increased network capacity.

The image below shows MTN’s 5G network across several provinces and around major cities in South Africa, as of 11 August 2022.



Free State and Northern Cape

Eastern Cape



Cape Town and surrounds

Mbombela (Nelspruit) and surrounds

Now read: Cheapest 5G smartphones in South Africa — starting from R3,500

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MTN’s impressive 5G rollout and massive data growth