Africa’s largest mobile network operator MTN has announced plans to invest over R170 million in efforts to expand its LTE and 5G networks in the Eastern Cape.
MTN aims to offer businesses and consumers greater digital access and an improved internet connection by expanding its LTE footprint to almost 93% in the province by the end of the year.
It currently provides coverage to over 98% of the population in the province while over 87% of the population already has LTE coverage, according to its statement.
These are ‘key resources’
With remote working increasing on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic, MTN general manager for the Eastern Cape, Gregg Anderson, notes that quality network coverage and good internet speeds remain key resources in bridging the digital divide and closing existing digital access gaps in South Africa.
“Our investment in the Eastern Cape will, in the short-term, ensure improved connection and data speed in areas that may have had connectivity challenges in the past while our longer-term strategic intent includes network modernisation, network resilience, building new sites and 5G expansion, with the aim of helping to support and drive business and job growth in South Africa,” he says.
“South Africa is the nation with the most developed internet ecosystem in Africa, therefore the country’s long-term success will be based on sustainable and accelerated job creation and the best way to do this is by helping small and medium businesses grow both in urban and rural areas,” adds Anderson.
MTN points out that the more than R170 million investment will include the building of new LTE sites in areas such as Joe Gqabi District, OR Tambo District and Amathole District and expanding 5G in Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) and East London.
“This is part of the ongoing investment by MTN and other operators of between R10 billion [and] R20 billion a year into communications infrastructure,” says technology analyst Arthur Goldstuck.
“The revealing aspect of the Eastern Cape investment is that it is going into an area where 87% of the population already has access to LTE or 4G.
“This shows the importance of extending access to the entire population, including those in rural and remote areas. It points to a future of blanket broadband coverage of the population.
“However, the question will also then emerge of how to make access to that broadband affordable to all,” says Goldstuck.
According to Anderson: “In the past six months, MTN has made significant improvements to its network infrastructure across the board and the opportunity now exists to grow our LTE footprint in the Eastern Cape, ensuring more customers have access to the LTE network.”
MTN says the recent finalisation of the long-awaited Coastal National Long Distance (NLD) cable project (known in the industry as NLD 5 and NLD 6) has added capacity in the coastal areas.
Now with the added R170 million cash injection, the mobile operator says “improved network reach and stability will accelerate MTN’s footprint in previously disadvantaged communities”.
According to MTN, key partnerships with the Eastern Cape provincial government and local municipality will also see ongoing support for child care and education facilities in the region.
Palesa Mofokeng is a Moneyweb intern.