The growth of the telecoms sector and the development of the country is dependent on the expeditious allocation of radio spectrum, which will enable operators to improve their service offerings by deploying new generation networks in line with customer requirements.
MTN is encouraged by the strides that the regulator has made to finalise the process of spectrum allocation. However, MTN believes that speeding up the process will augur well for an improved and seamless customer experience, as operators will have the leeway to deploy new generation networks that will meet the increasing data needs and absorb increasing data traffic.
Mteto Nyati, Chief Executive Officer of MTN South Africa, told the media at a press briefing hosted in Johannesburg that 98% of subscribers are served by just 40% of the allocated spectrum, which is exerting a constricting pressure on the networks that are built on frequencies that are not suitable for data intensive applications.
“The rapid adoption of smart devices, which compliments government’s vision of bridging the digital divide and universal access to broadband services, has increased traffic on our networks substantially, and has rendered access to spectrum more urgent,” said Nyati. He added that the growth of data intensive services such as video is exacerbating traffic and adding pressure on the already clogged networks.
Nyati said that MTN will continue to engage with its principals to speed up the auction of spectrum, as access to spectrum forms part of MTN’s ongoing efforts to improve customer experience.
“The re-farming of existing spectrum to cater for LTE technology is an interim measure, as access to the high demand spectrum is the prerequisite for the provision of high performance networks and seamless network experience,” said Nyati.
He added: “South Africa has made enormous strides in delivering voice telephony and data services. The availability of high-demand radio spectrum will allow deployment of networks for the digital age that permits higher data speeds, which increase network capacity and enhance customer experience. This will also allow us to introduce avant-garde digital solutions.”
Lack of high-demand radio spectrum has compelled MTN to re-farm existing spectrum to cater to the pent-up demand for digital services, which operators cannot continue to meet without the allocation of the high-demand spectrum.
Nyati said that despite a challenging operating environment, MTN has made encouraging progress in meeting its strategic objectives, namely returning to growth, transforming customer experience and overhauling people engagement.
Nyati said MTN has prioritised transforming customer experience as one of the key differentiators that will set MTN apart from the competition. To that end, MTN embarked on an aggressive network rollout which saw the operator increasing spend by 92.9% last year and adding 966 2G sites, 1 593 largely co-located 3G sites and 3 148 LTE sites to its network.
In response to customer demands, MTN has also simplified its products, processes and systems, and will be introduced a cutting-edge platform called Shifta, which allows customers to create their own post-paid packages by customising the duration, services, devices that suits their needs.
Nyati said that MTN has also opened a flagship store at the Mall of Africa, a cutting-edge paperless store that is geared towards improved customer experience.
MTN has also signed a recognition agreement with the Communications Workers Union (CWU). The recognition agreement creates a formal bargaining agreement environment that will govern relations between MTN and its unionised employees.
As a socially responsible corporate citizen, Nyati said that MTN always seeks to ensure that its operations have minimal impact on the environment. To that end, MTN continues to invest in sustainability and energy management initiatives. This includes the 2MW tri-generation plant, the first of its kind in Africa, which powers its head office in Fairlands, Johannesburg.
Nyati announced that the thermal plant in Doornfontein, which generate 1MW + 750kW, is operational, and so is the thermal plant in Newlands, which generates 5.2MW + 2MW. MTN also has a concentrated solar plant, which has a capacity of 380kW and powers its data centre, and a free cooling Heat Wheel, which generates 600kW of energy.
“We are closer to being certified as an Independent Power Producer by the National Electricity Regulator of SA (NERSA), and we look forward to contribute positively to the energy eco-system in the country by offloading the excess capacity that we generate back onto the grid,” said Nyati.
Looking ahead, Nyati announced that MTN will be ramping up its full service ICT offering through MTN Business, delivering high-speed broadband to households and businesses through FTTx rollout, driving LTE and 3G handset distribution across all segments and decreasing 2G distribution share across all channels.
“Additional focus areas for this year will be revisiting customer value proposition to drive data usage and digital content services, streamlining the supply chain model, incorporating our comprehensive back-office transformation programme,” said Nyati.
MTN is the largest digital music distributor and the largest mobile bank in Africa, based on digital music and funds transferred. “We will continue to build a digital ecosystem to deliver a bold new digital world for our customers,” said Nyati.
Through the MTN SA Foundation, MTN continues to make a positive difference in the communities it operates in.
“Using the power of ICT, MTN contributes to enhancing learning and teaching in South Africa through educator ICT training and up-skilling, learner ICT support, school connectivity and curriculum digitisation. MTN also contributes to socio-economic development of disadvantaged communities in South Africa through tele-medicine and e-health training, health screening and wellness initiatives support, enterprise development and strategic arts partnerships in communities,” Nyati concluded.