MTN ponders 4G PDF Print E-mail
Africa`s largest cellular operator aims to have 50 sites live on HSPA+ in time for the World Cup.

MTN is rolling out a faster network in SA, with the eventual aim of evolving to 4G across the country.

The company is progressing towards an HSPA+ network, and aims to have 50 sites live in time for the World Cup so that international tourists can access the faster 3G speeds.

MTN`s rivals, Vodacom and Cell C, are also rolling out HSPA+ networks in SA. Vodacom plans to have 100 sites live for the World Cup, and Cell C is spending R5 billion this year to expand its broadband network.

Surajh Surjoo, senior manager of consumer segment and broadband at MTN, says the network can currently handle download speeds of 7.2Mbps. Since the second half of last year, the company has been rolling out 14.4Mbps across the network.

“Those customers with capable modems will be experiencing higher speeds,” says Surjoo.

However, the actual speeds experienced by the consumer depend on how many people are using the service, the time of day, and the distance from the tower. MTN is installing fibre to overcome these factors, he says.

Fibre ring

The next stage of the network evolution is to take the network to 21.1Mbps, or HSPA+, says Surjoo. While Vodacom has an HSPA+ site live in Midrand, MTN does not yet have any live sites, but has been testing the technology for the past six months in a laboratory environment.

MTN has budgeted for 50 sites to be rolled out in time for the Soccer World Cup and will deploy fibre to ensure the backhaul can support the higher speeds. The company is also finishing construction of its fibre core. “We`ve invested substantially in fibre,” says Surjoo.

The network expansion forms part of MTN`s total expansion capital expenditure, which was R7.1 billion last year. This year, the investment will form a smaller part of overall expenditure, says Surjoo.

After evolving the network to HSPA+, MTN “will eventually evolve to LTE”, says Surjoo. However, moving to 4G depends on timing and cost, he adds.

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