MTN will break ground this week on its fibre optic metropolitan area network in Gauteng as it seeks to improve upon the service it is forced to accept from Telkom. The metro network will form part of the company's R7,1-billion capital expenditure this year.
This is the first step in MTN's attempt to self-provision and will be followed within months by the building of a national network that will cover more than 5 000km.
Sameer Dave, MTN's chief technology officer, explains that the R7,1-billion capex approved for this year covers the two new networks as well as transmission capability.
"A key objective is to build huge capacity today," he says. 3G is top of the list for new capabilities, although 2G still have a role to play with new users.
"Self-provisioning is one of many projects," says Dave. "We need to wean ourselves away from Telkom, which has many reliability issues."
MTN has already implemented a pilot network in Gauteng, but this only spans 6km. "We have completed 6km of 180km," says Dave. "We will start from the seventh kilometre on from 1 August at the latest."
The estimated cost of the Gauteng backbone is between R120-million and R150-million, and should save MTN about R2,8-billion over the next 10 years.
The national network will span 5 000km, and MTN hopes to dig and lay fibre in partnership with another telco.
The cost of the national network is esimated at R1,2-billion to R1,5-billion and MTN hopes it will save in the region of R6,3-billion over the next 10 years.
In terms of backhaul, MTN is one of the major investors in the EASSy cable, which will supply 320Gbps capacity and is expected to be operational by 2011 – although MTN is still hopeful it may be online by 2010.