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MTN Drives Rural Expansion with $39M Injection in Eastern Cape, SA

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Luis Monzon
Luis Monzon
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MTN SA has today announced that it is investing $39.1-million (R624-million) into the Eastern Cape province of South Africa to drive upgrades and deploy new network infrastructure across the region this year. The company says it is focusing on launching 5G and connectivity services, especially in rural areas.

This latest cash injection falls as part of MTN’s “Modernisation of Network South Africa project” (MONZA) project. Last month, the telco invested nearly $57-million in rural Limpopo in the North of South Africa.

MTN says this latest investment will expand network reach into rural communities, drive 5G expansion and work to restore vandalised network infrastructure.

“We are working across the country to modernise the entire MTN network. Just over 68% has already been completed nationally, and the Eastern Cape is our next focus area. While we have invested in improving data speeds and connections in the short term, this plan is longer-term in nature, securing resilience, stability, quality and helping us expand our reach significantly,” says Maria Soares van Niekerk, GM for Eastern Cape at MTN South Africa.

MTN currently provides coverage to over 98 percent of the population in the Eastern Cape province and the project will increase this network coverage, improve throughputs, and elevate the customer experience.

“Connecting the unconnected is our priority and it is extremely pleasing to be at the forefront of bringing a vista of new digital solutions to more people in our region this year,” says Soares van Niekerk.

MTN is planning to focus on 491 towers as part of its network resilience and optimisation program, this will see various areas receive increased coverage and capacity. MTN notes that smartphone penetration is growing in South Africa.

According to Statista research, about one-third of the country’s population has a smartphone. The overall number of mobile connections is much higher though with more than 90 million, as feature phones are still popular and widely used in the country and on the continent overall. The number of smartphone users is, however, forecast to grow by more than five million before 2023.

“MTN is aware of these trends and is therefore ensuring that all users can benefit from our expansion. We intend to greatly enhance connectivity into remote locations, to bring the benefits of the modern, connected world to even more households and businesses,” says Soares van Niekerk.

The extension of MTN’s 5G connectivity in the region will open the door to a world of new connectivity and digital opportunity, at faster speeds with far less delay, the company says. Currently, the province has over 94 live 5G sites and another 18 are planned for 2022.

Network modernisation across 187 sites is already 68% complete and largely focused on East London, Mthatha and Queenstown sub-region.

A key determinant of the success of the MTN modernisation project, however, is the ongoing problem of battery theft and tower vandalism.

While MTN’s heightened security and community collaboration strategy has seen a 50% year-on-year reduction in battery theft, more needs to be done to secure and protect infrastructure. Across the region, 45% of sites in Queenstown Sub-Region and 44% of sites in Mthatha Sub-Region will therefore get new batteries to improve network resilience in 2022. This is over and above the R650 million invested in 2021, with 2,600 base station batteries replaced nationally.

“Our network towers are how we keep our customers connected and we are investing to ensure their digital lives are disrupted as little as possible. However, it is still imperative that we all remain vigilant as the fight is a long way from over against the thieves and vandals who continue to operate. MTN urges community members across the country to report any incident of vandalism and theft at network towers,” concludes Soares van Niekerk.

Edited by Luis Monzon
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