South Africa must create a telecommunication ecosystem that drives competition and access while building a new generation of innovators that continue to break down barriers, according to South Africa’s fastest mobile network, MTN.
Chief Technology and Information Officer at MTN SA, Giovanni Chiarelli, said that while the combination of device, cloud, network and services form an “astoundingly powerful virtuous quartet for innovation”, SA’s economy will be left behind if additional frequency for expansion is not made available urgently.
Other factors affecting data pricing and therefore data usage in SA include cost factors like electricity, tax and theft; exchange rate volatility; and regulation.
“Technology needs to provide a platform for South African innovation and these bottlenecks to growth need to be cleared. African solutions for African problems must be found, and to drive this innovation we need an ecosystem that enables innovation. If we are to deliver the 4th industrial revolution, our industry must also avoid over-regulation that will stunt agility,” said Chiarelli.
MTN Cloud Connect Wireless, launched in 2018, is an example of how technology can provide solutions to problems currently being faced by businesses in SA. By harnessing Point to MultiPoint microwave technology, small offices or remote branches of large enterprises can now achieve efficient, low-cost wireless access. Rural businesses, which will increasingly be the lifeblood of the economy going forward but face immense network constraints, are being given a new lease on life.
“The resulting infrastructure is covering 60% of businesses across SA today, and it is intended to grow above 75% in the near future,” said Chiarelli.
In the absence of spectrum, however, MTN’s push for rapid 3G and 4G coverage has come at a price – not only the R40 billion investment in the past few years but also the need to re-farm existing spectrum for 3G and LTE deployment.
“Our goal is to continue to deliver high-capacity 4G in cities and broad 3G coverage in rural areas. Our new data customers will be in rural areas and they will buy smaller amounts of data – which is why we are focusing heavily on both extending our connectivity reach, while also transforming our pricing methodology to adapt to the changing and growing markets we seek to serve. In South Africa – we’ve been exceptionally aggressive in our capital investment to support our dual data strategy,” said Chiarelli.
The strategy has also seen MTN achieving extraordinary successes in connecting the previously unconnected. By August this year, MTN’s 4G coverage had reached 88% and by the end of 2018, it will achieve 90% LTE coverage for South Africa.
“The investment we have made has built a network that is second to none in South Africa. In addition to this, we will ensure that we keep matching demand with simple and extensive consumer offerings that meet the needs of all our people, despite the constraints we face,” he concludes.