MTN has revealed that it has now covered 90% of South Africa with Long-Term Evolution (LTE/4G) coverage through the development of its 11 000th LTE site in the heartland of the Eastern Cape.
This significant landmark site in Qatywa near the birthplace of Former President, Nelson Mandela, is testimony to SA’s fastest mobile network’s ongoing commitment to providing reliable, quality and high-speed mobile broadband to all corners of the country. The extensive LTE rollout has not only extended population coverage, it has also secured coverage in key strategic areas, such as along national routes and at border posts.
In July 2011, MTN was the first network operator to launch a high-speed mobile LTE pilot at scale and in Africa, as it moved to take customer experiences to the next level of quality.
After giving customers a glimpse of what the future would look like, through a phased rollout to 100 sites, the journey to 90% LTE coverage saw millions of South African exposed to the power of 4G.
LTE offers a better data experience, with faster download and upload speeds, less buffering, better streaming and better video calling or conferencing quality. In addition, LTE is more spectrally efficient resulting in more efficient spectrum usage. More than 1000 new sites have been developed so far in 2018 and many more are planned for next year.
“This is not about the technology itself but rather how we respond to customer’s needs and their demand for better connectivity. Our significant capital investment is about customers and ensuring they have regular and consistently high-quality experiences with us,” says Godfrey Motsa, CEO MTN SA.
MTN’s dual data strategy has seen the company actively pursuing both 3G and 4G coverage with the company investing R43.6bn in capital expenditure, just in South Africa, during the last four years.
“Today’s coverage milestone is particularly significant as we have been able to achieve this performance, despite the spectrum-constrained environment within which we operate, through our innovative use of the 900MHz band for LTE,” Motsa says.
“By deploying LTE in the 900MHz band we have been able to achieve two important objectives, which is to further grow LTE coverage in rural areas while also boosting indoor coverage in the metros,” he says.
While a lack of access to spectrum is holding back the ability of some in the industry to target rural areas, MTN has relentlessly developed its infrastructure to extend connectivity and put customers at the forefront of everything it does. By August this year, MTN’s 4G coverage had reached 88% and this latest push has taken LTE coverage for South Africa to this new high of 90%. MTN’s LTE coverage has gone from 0-90% 4G coverage in just five years, which is exponentially faster than the 3G rollout which went from 0-90% in 10 years.
“In the same way we have been able to drive high speed LTE coverage for all South Africans, we are clear that the release of spectrum remains a key element that will help us further drive down the cost of data in South Africa and we should not underestimate the urgency with which that release is required,” Motsa adds.
In Qatywa, the impact of the LTE rollout is plainly evident. During the rollout, local businesses from across the broader Port St Johns area were employed to help with the development of the site, while numerous opportunities were created for local entrepreneurs to thrive. Ancillary businesses from retailers to manufacturers have been established in the wake of the ongoing development around the site in the area. Roads were built, electricity was installed, which in turn opened access to these businesses and to tourism opportunities.
“Using technology to drive social development is a core tenet of our rural strategy. The network sites that we build do far more than bring the world together through technology as they include roads, electricity and other infrastructure improvements that help connect entire communities. Getting connected is the key to industrial and economic activity across SA as it opens the door to a vista of new opportunities,” says Giovanni Chiarelli, MTN SA’s Chief Technology Officer.
MTN has donated laptops to local schools in the area during the development of the 10,000th site, through the MTN Foundation. This is in line with a broader initiative to improve information and communication technology (ICT), connectivity in rural schools, building educator capacity in maths, science and languages, supporting existing science centres, building tele-teaching aids and skills amongst educators and learners and making infrastructure improvements in schools.
MTN has achieved extraordinary success in connecting the previously unconnected to SA’s best network as it ramps up rural coverage and has transformed its pricing methodology to adapt to the changing and growing markets it seeks to serve.
“We are very proud of what we have been able to achieve because this technology roll-out has helped improve the lives of South Africans across all socio-economic sectors. MTN has some of the country’s best engineers who’ve tenaciously pursued technological excellence that drives social development. Our passion to continue connecting the unconnected remains clear and resolute,” concludes Chiarelli.