MTN has reached a significant milestone by recording 100 million active data users on its networks across Africa and the Middle East, the telco revealed on Thursday.

The South Africa-based company has a total base of more than 257 million customers in 21 markets. Growth through scaling data and digital services is central to its strategy. The group is overcoming barriers to greater mobile internet adoption by extending its 3G and 4G coverage, accelerating smartphone adoption and transforming prices.

MTN wants to bridge the digital divide by ensuring that rural people in Africa and the Middle East are connected to the internet through its network.

Last November, MTN revealed its innovative rural connectivity strategy.

The company said it is amongst the Pioneers of OpenRAN – the technology which enables operators to achieve cost-effective deployments allowing for greater connectivity to previously unconnected areas.

MTN announced it has deployed over 200 commercial rural sites across its footprint, using OpenRAN technology. For more read: MTN Wants to Connect Africa, Middle East Rural Areas to the Internet

In the past three years, well over 100 million more people in MTN’s footprint have been covered by its data network. This brings the group’s network coverage for data services to beyond 480 million people. However, about 60% of rural populations in Africa remain unconnected. To benefit from connectivity, they need affordable devices as well as the digital literacy to easily access relevant and meaningful content.

“We believe that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life,” said MTN CEO Rob Shuter.

“We are delighted to have connected 100 million of our customers to the power of the internet as we have increased data coverage and reduced the cost to communicate across our markets.”

Rob Shuter, MTN Ceo

To support smartphone adoption, in 2019 MTN distributed 675 000 affordable data-enabled handsets across 12 markets. It also launched a digital literacy programme in nine markets, helping over three million people improve their understanding of the mobile internet and applications.

Data affordability is also key. In 2018 and 2019, MTN reduced entry-level data rates across its footprint by 60%. In 2019 alone, it cut the effective data price per megabyte by 34%.

 “We believe the consumer mobile data market will grow enormously over the next few years,” said Shuter.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has served to accelerate the adoption of mobile data, digital services and financial services. As a result, we have recorded increases of up to 50% in data volumes in some markets, as work and studying from home becomes a reality for many.”

 “Over time our ambition is to grow our customer base to 300 million and for at least 2/3 to be accessing the power of the internet on an MTN network – so  the 100 million achieved today marks the halfway mark in the MTN journey.”


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