As telecom companies in Africa scramble to adopt next-generation mobile services to boost revenue, MTN South Africa has launched a commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) network with the help of Ericsson.

The network is the first to be built by Ericsson in Africa and boosts MTN's competitive profile in South Africa, where Vodacom and Cell C already offer LTE services.

The official launch of the MTN LTE network comes after its pilot program ran more than a year. MTN is expected to roll out the network across the country in order to compete with Vodacom, which already has its LTE network deployed in several parts of the country.

Two months ago, Vodacom was the first telecom company to launch an LTE network in South Africa and it has been expanding quickly. Vodacom on Wednesday, for example, announced that it launched its LTE service in Cape Town.

On its part, Ericsson said in a statement Wednesday that along with its Radio Base Station (RBS) 600 family of base stations, it is supplying Evolved Packet Core (EPC) technology, Home Subscriber Server (HSS) software for data management as well as Operating Support System (OSS) and project management support.

With the arrival of LTE, mobile users in South Africa, Africa's second largest telecom market after Nigeria, will have fast access to the Internet along with online gaming, social media and image-sharing services.

It also means that small business customers using online conferencing will experience improved output quality and faster data-transfer capabilities.

"South Africa is not the first country in the region to have LTE networks," said Amos Kalunga, telecom analyst at Computer Society of Zambia. "Angola and Namibia already have them but the coming of LTE networks in South Africa is likely to fuel the deployment of the networks in other countries because South African operators operate in other African countries."

The coming of LTE networks in Africa coupled with the improving economies in most African countries is expected to trigger higher demand for LTE-enabled mobile phones and other devices as costs come down. More operators in Africa, especially larger operators, are looking at LTE as a technology growth path because it offers service options over earlier mobile technologies.