MTN Nigeria began offering limited 5G services ahead of full commercial launch in seven cities, making the country one of a small number on the African continent to offer the latest generation of mobile network technology.

The operator’s launch locations are Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Kano, Owerri and Maiduguri, with owners of a compatible smartphone or fixed wireless terminals able to trial the service.

It is currently taking 5G router orders online with other devices said to be available for order in-store.

In a statement lauding the launch, MTN Nigeria CMO Adia Sowho said: “5G has the potential to change everything. It will allow us to connect, create, collaborate, and compete in ways we’ve not even begun to imagine.”

MTN expects 5G to extend both the capacity and reach of its data network in Nigeria, with the increased use of data in the country often cited as a major revenue driver by group CEO Ralph Mupita.

The launch follows an auction of 5G-suitable frequencies in the country where MTN and Mafab Communications emerged as the two winners. Both players spent around $274 million.

Victorious bidders had been expected to launch initial services this month, but earlier this week it emerged Nigeria’s regulator had granted Mafab an extension of five months to the deadline.

With full launch Nigeria will become one of few countries in Africa to have 5G services available commercially. Other nations with the service include Kenya and South Africa.