West Africa is home to more than 175 million unique mobile subscribers and is one of the world’s fastest-growing mobile regions. The expansion of mobile networks to underserved communities and the increasing affordability of services and device costs have helped the rapid growth of mobile adoption in recent years.
The transition to mobile broadband is gaining momentum across West Africa, driven by the expansion of 3G and 4G networks, lower data tariffs and the increasing affordability of smartphones. 3G remains the dominant mobile broadband technology: commercial 3G services are available in all 15 countries in the sub-region, while 3G networks now cover two-thirds of the population. The total number of mobile broadband connections will exceed 400 million by 2025, representing a fourfold rise in 2017, and will account for more than 90% of total connections.
4G adoption is rising rapidly as a result of network expansion and greater availability of 4G devices. As of the first quarter of 2018, there were 29 live LTE networks in nine countries across West Africa, six of which have launched in the last year, including Airtel Nigeria in February 2018, and Africell Gambia and Sierratel Sierra Leone in January 2018. 5G is expected to launch in the sub-region by 2025, although initial adoption will be impacted by network coverage and affordability.