MTN has connected thousands of rural residents in Umhlabuyalingana Local Municipality in northern KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) to high-speed broadband internet after the mobile network operator rolled out 3G and 4G infrastructure on four sites in the area.

Data traffic has surged 60% since the implementation of the project. As a result of the high demand for data services in the area, MTN will deploy infrastructure on four more sites to meet the growing demand.

“Three sites have been activated since this project started towards the end of last year. We are on the verge of activating a fourth site and we are just awaiting transmission medium to be completed. This is another way MTN is bringing seamless connectivity closer to our customers. Based on our current forecasts, the forth site will go live in early September,” says Ernest Galelekile, MTN’s GM for KZN region operation.

The three sites that have been activated will cover about 31 000 residents and broadband users can expect to achieve download speeds of 40Mb.

The Umhlabuyalingana project is the outcome of a request made in April 2017 by Minister of Telecommunications & Postal Services Siyabonga Cwele and local ward councillors for mobile network operators to improve network coverage and connectivity along the Mozambique border.

The widening of the high-speed network will enable the residents to combat cross-border crime and boost economic development in the area.

“In most deep rural areas, network coverage is poor. The infrastructure that we have rolled out in such areas is the same quality as networks that you find in major metros.

“This investment by MTN will help local businesses sell their products and services to bigger markets through the internet while students will now be able to be use their devices to access information that dramatically enhances their knowledge,” says Galelekile.

Over the past year, MTN has been engaging with the Department of Telecommunications & Postal Services (DTPS) on the project’s roll-out and challenges encountered. On 29 August 2018, Minister Cwele visited Umhlabuyalingana, where he inspected the project and witnessed the testing of the readiness of the sites by MTN engineers.

The project is part of DTPS’s drive to connect rural communities across South Africa to broadband internet. Projects such as Umhlabuyalingana are essential to unlocking e-commerce opportunities for people living in remote areas, whereby essential services enjoyed by urban dwellers can also be delivered to rural communities.

In May, Minister Cwele said his department’s focus in 2018 was connecting 570 sites, of which 327 were projected to go live by the end of June.