Ever since Surfline launched its 4G service, I wondered how long until we would be able to get 4G LTE service on our smartphones for LTE data services.
Then the National Communications Authority (NCA) announced the auction of 800Mhz 4G spectrum and opened the floor for bidding. Amongst the bidders were Surfline Communications, Goldkey Telecoms and Migson Communications, and MTN Ghana.
Ultimately, MTN Ghana won the bidding and was awarded the 4G spectrum in December.
Fast forward six months later and MTN has officially rolled out their 4G LTE service for MTN customers.
So What’s The Big Deal With 4G?
If you haven’t tried out Surfline and other providers’ 4G service, you’re probably wondering why 4G on your phone is a big deal. Basically, 4G on your phone will give you faster data speed on your phone. A 20 MB file which would maybe take you 3 mins to download could download in one minute thanks to faster service. That means, using services like Skype Video Chats, Netflix, and Youtube streaming will be faster and more improved.
We’re increasingly moving to a world where we rely more on data than voice services. 4G will enable users to get crisper FaceTime calls and even get better WhatsApp calls. But if MTN has their way, you might get restricted access to those Over the Top Network (OTTN) services. But that’s another debate.
In this post, I’ll write about my experience using MTN’s 4G service and later talk about something we might see down the road: Voice over LTE (VoLTE).
MTN 4G First Impressions
The MTN LTE Sim I got from MTN service center is nothing special. Just a simple SIM Card.
If you have a modern smartphone, you’re probably ready to make use of MTN’s 4G service. If you’re also in one of these areas on the map, you can also use the 4G service.
Don’t worry if you get out of 4G coverage area when you’re using the 4G SIM card. The network will simply switch to 3G service if available.
Before I get into MTN’s 4G service, I did some speed tests with MTN’s 3G network to make a comparison.
Here are a couple of speed tests I did when I was in the Dzworulu area of Accra.
So, MTN’s 3G network is actually really good. Averaging about 6Mbps. That’s actually better than my broadband internet at home.
So how does MTN’s 4G LTE network compare. For the test, I used my daily driver: A Huawei G8.
I inserted the SIM card, restarted my phone and turned on the 4G in my phone settings. And voila! Officially on MTN 4G network
So how is fast is MTN’s 4G network? This fast:
Not bad! It’s really fast. I wanted to test it and see how it good it was. So I opened my YouTube app and watched The Dark Knight trailer in HD. (Just a random test, no reason for watching that particular trailer)
It was smooth streaming all the way. No buffering. No stops. Just great HD video of a movie trailer.
Don’t expect your phone calls to be much improved. The 4G LTE network as it stands on MTN is really more for data than voice. Now, if MTN goes ahead and implements a Voice over LTE network service, that would be a different story.
So it’s as simple as that. Just swap your current MTN SIM card for an LTE one, plug it in, switch on your 4G option on your phone and you’re ready to go.
But if you’re not a data hog like me and use data sparingly and not really into streaming, Skype calling or using apps that use good amounts of data, I would advise you to stick with your current 3G SIM. You don’t really need 4G when most of your data stuff is WhatsApp and other simple data uses. Unless you want to go with the trend and tell everyone you have 4G on your phone, go ahead and be a Mr. Me Too.
I don’t know if it’s in the pipeline but I’m surprised MTN hasn’t offered mobile modems with 4G SIMs in them. That way, they would compete directly with Surfline on their turf.
Hmm. I might have to check on that and see if that’s incoming later.
Is VoLTE Around the Corner?
Now that MTN has started rolling out its 4G LTE service, a question one might ask is if we are closer to getting HD calls. If you’ve never used Voice over LTE services (VoLTE), you’re missing out.
Just imagine the first time you ever went from standard definition on your television to high definition. There’s a vast difference and that same situation applies to VoLTE but with sound quality.
MTN definitely has the infrastructure to implement this but I suspect they will be testing out their current 4G LTE rollout and see how it works for the time being.
What’s the big deal about VoLTE. Here’s some more of the benefits:
1. High-definition voice: With VoLTE, you will be able to make High Definition calls. I have been able to use HD calls when I was in the US. There’s definitely a noticeable difference than with a standard call. It’s like the person is standing next to you.
2. Faster call setup times: You will be to set up calls faster than the regular calls. If you’re calling someone on your current phone, you can see that there’s a slight delay before you hear the dialing tone on your phone. The call setup times with VoLTE will be twice as fast. Basically, you dial someone’s number and it starts ringing in like 2 seconds.
3. Improved Quality of Service: You will get better quality of service with VoLTE. Because the LTE network is basically like an internet call, you will be assured of making and getting better quality phone calls.
For now, VoLTE looks way ahead in the future for Ghanaian consumers. But the launch of MTN’s 4G LTE service is a good first step.
A tech guy like me wonders when the other telcos such as Vodafone, Airtel and Tigo will join the 4G train.
For now, 4G on your phone has officially arrived. We’ll see where we go from here.
Joseph-Albert Kuuire is the creator and editor of TechNovaGh.com, an online digital platform focusing on technology in Ghana.
I’m also a UX Designer, book reader, and tech enthusiast (duh!)
Email: [email protected]