MTN has begun laying fibre and connecting both base stations and corporate customers in a self-provisioning pilot that it hopes will make it less dependent on scarce Telkom capacity. 

It is investing between R8-million and R10-million on the pilot project, which will connect base stations and customers in the Sandton area as well as with Rosebank.
Currently, the Sandton leg of the network installation is complete, with the Rosebank leg still underway.
Tim Lowry, the new CEO of MTN, explains that although Telkom has doubled the amount of fibre it has laid in South Africa, provisioning capacity remains a problem that the mobile operators have to address.
He points out that buying fibre bandwidth from Telkom is a significant cost to the operator and, as the market continues to grow, looks set to become the biggest single cost line within the business.
"Within the next couple of years we will have to decide how to address this issue," says Lowry.
"We don't necessarily want to approach it by digging and installing our own network. We are more pragmatic and want to work with Telkom – but if they don't provide it we will have to provision ourselves or work with other providers."
Among the corporate clients that have gone live with the self-provisioning offering are the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE), which will soon be able to link directly with brokers in Rosebank as well.
Lowry stresses that MTN maintains a pragmatic approach to self-provisioning and will work with Telkom or other partners where it makes sense. However, it is a critical area and one where it is putting a lot of thought.
"We have teams of people looking are where we need to go on self-provisioning," he says.
In terms of international self-provisioning, Lowry says MTN is building an international gateway for terminating international calls. The operator will also consider buying capacity either through international cable or satellite.