Somalia’s largest telecommunications services provider, Hormuud Telecom, has announced plans to extend its 4G phone network across the country, and is aiming to provide nationwide coverage by 2023.
Hormuud began expanding its 4G network capacity in 2015 in partnership with the Somalia Ministry of Telecommunications, who estimates that across the country, over 11.25 million Somalis (representing 70% of Somalia’s 15 million population), now have access to 4G internet.
However, the telco says 4G access is primarily limited to major cities, and Somalis in rural areas often do not enjoy the same level of network access. As such, 30% of Hormuud’s 3.6 million customers still rely on its 2G network – the majority of which live in rural areas.
Hormuud Telecom’s CEO Ahmed Mohamud Yuusuf said: “We’re delighted to today announce Hormuud’s ambition to bring broadband speed, 4G data, to every Somali citizen over the next two years.
“We are proud to have long played a leading role in bringing Somalis online. Increasing access to 4G internet is critical to ensuring Somalia achieves its goal of becoming a cashless economy.”
Hormuud’s aim for total 4G expansion in two years is in line with current government commitments, as the Somalia government’s National ICT Policy pledges to reach total 4G coverage in-between 2024 – 2025.
The company has quantified the consumer demand in the country and the average Hormuud data user consumes 5GB of data monthly, up from a national average of around 1-2GB a year ago.
According to Hormuud, Somali consumers enjoy the lowest data prices in Africa with 1GB starting at US$0.18. In contrast, the same amount of data starts at US$1.05 and US$2.44 in neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia.
Yuusuf added: “Access to high-speed data is now a human right. It’s a foundational requirement to developing nations in order to provide vital services such as aid and international remittances, as well as underpinning day-to-day business activity.”
The company considers access to 4G is fundamental to Hormuud’s ambitions to provide ‘sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth’ for Somalis in line with the UN’s SDGs.
Abdi Sheikh Ahmed, Somali Minister for Post, Telecom and Technology, explained: “Improving access to highspeed networks is vital to improving the lives of millions of Somalis. We are working hard with Hormuud to ensure that access to 4G is not something that only those in metropolitan areas enjoy, but that all Somalis can benefit from.
“It’s encouraging to see telecom operators in Somalia taking leadership roles to fulfil the guidelines of the National ICT Policy. The continued 4G expansion shows that the country is on track to meet its network expansion targets, providing the essential services our citizens need.”
Mobile money plays a critical role in the Somali economy, with two-thirds of all payments made on mobile money platforms.
In February, the Central bank of Somalia took a landmark step and issued Somalia’s first mobile money licence to Hormuud Telecom, meaning that Hormuud’s mobile money platform EVC Plus is now formally regulated and licensed by the Central Bank of Somalia.
In April this year the telco launched what it described as the country’s first indigenous mobile money application.
Hormuud said the WAAFI Fintech app is an upgrade from the existing USSD technology that many Somalis use.