Many parts of the world are not ready for next-generation 5G network but would likely be ready to embrace the super-fast technology in the next few years from now, MTN's chief executive said on Tuesday.
5G networks, now in the final testing stage, will rely on denser arrays of small antennas and the cloud to offer data speeds up to 50 or 100 times faster than current 4G networks and serve as critical infrastructure for a range of industries.
"This is the technology that would be used for very specific cases. It would not be a technology for everybody because most people don't need it, your phone works fine on just 3G," Rob Shuter told Reuters at a telecoms conference in Durban.
"You also need the equipment itself. So right now there's no 5G handsets and even the routers that can receive 5G network are very few and very expensive."
Many of MTN's users in emerging markets across Africa and the Middle East are still awaiting 4G and are likely to have to get by with 3G connections for years more.
"What we are doing now is to learn from the technology and get our network ready for it but I think 3G is much more relevant in most of our markets," he said.
Shuter declined to comment on his company's multibillion-dollar dispute with Nigeria -- which accounts for a third of its annual core profit -- because the matter is before a court in the West African country.
MTN operates in more than 20 frontier markets including war-ravaged Syria and Afghanistan.