MTN is on track to spend another R4,6-billion on infrastructure in 2009, after its R4,8-billion spending spree last year, as it gears up for 2010 and beyond.
Sameer Dave, chief technology officer of the MTN group, says the group is looking to a R4,6-billion capex this year to complete its Gauteng metropolitan fibre network, extend its 5 000km national fibre rollout and begin migration to a next-generation network (NGN).
"In a concerted effort to ramp up its service offering, MTN SA has invested billions of rands to improve the quality of our network over a two-year period. This investment enables MTN to move towards a layered architecture to meet the growing voice and data demands placed on network infrastructure," Dave says.
To increase network transmission capacity, work will include continual improvement of the existing base stations, switches and transmission infrastructure, installing new base stations, upgrades to software and the introduction of higher speed bearers on the network for a seamless service.
During 2009, MTN is scheduled to carry out regional upgrades in six major areas across the country – Polokwane in Limpopo, New Germany in KwaZulu-Natal, Tygerberg in the Western Cape, and three areas around Johannesburg including Newlands and Germiston.
"MTN’s move towards a Next Generation Network (NGN) is an integral part of the natural evolution of being a mobile operator. The project will improve existing platforms and roll-out new platforms to enhance data connectivity speeds and voice coverage," explains Dave.
As the only African global sponsor of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, MTN is also laying the foundation to meet the anticipated increased voice and data requirements for this major international event, and into the future. All ten stadiums will have dedicated coverage and capacity installed, with dedicated equipment and dedicated back-up generators.
The network upgrade project began in force in 2008 and this year should see its completion. One of the key objectives for 2008 was to extend 2G and 3G/HSPA network coverage and major milestones were achieved last year, with 2G coverage extended to reach 97.9% of the country, while 3G coverage increased its footprint to 38.2%.
"During 2009, the complex migration of the network from its original ATM and TDN networks to the NGN (or IP) network will continue with the consolidation of the 2G and 3G platforms while phasing out the legacy switches.
"The migration from the complicated network system of the past to MTN’s NGN goal by 2011 comes with it some challenges, but we are confident that the end benefits will far outweigh these. The improved network quality will result in better customer retention, while our customers’ experience levels will improve with the increased coverage and capacity of the network," comments Dave.
"The move to self-provisioning is another major goal for us this year. The construction of the metropolitan fibre network around Gauteng and the national long-distance fibre network, together with the network upgrades, will ensure the sustainability of our network going forward.
"MTN’s reduced dependency on the fixed-line operator to meet growing capacity requirements and the reduction in both operational and customer costs will ensure that, going forward, we retain our competitive edge in a highly competitive environment," Dave says.