Connecting Africa is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 3099067.

Digital Inclusion

AfricaCom: MTN commits to rural coverage using open RAN tech

Article Image
MTN has committed to deploy more than 5,000 commercial rural sites across its 21 operations using open RAN technology. The sites in rural areas will bring 2G, 3G and 4G connectivity to previously unconnected places.

The MTN Group made the announcement at AfricaCom 2019 and said it had already deployed more than 200 commercial rural sites across its footprint using open RAN, a network infrastructure model developed by the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) based on open, disaggregated network elements that offer greater flexibility and lower capital costs to operators, enabling operators to achieve cost-effective deployments as they attempt to connect previously unconnected areas.

"Our Group Technology team has been pioneering open RAN, concluding field trials in Zambia in 2018 and deploying commercial sites from the beginning of 2019. We focus on creating viable new RAN solutions alongside the traditional deployments of network technology suppliers in order to accelerate the rural expansion in our markets," said Rob Shuter, MTN Group president and CEO, at the event.

In order to realize the long-term goal, MTN will rely on an ecosystem of partners who will bring their expertise to build and maintain the sites, utilizing a full turnkey approach.

MTN operations in Uganda and Guinea Conakry are already benefiting from open RAN technology, with MTN partnering with the likes of VANU, Parallel Wireless and NuRAN Wireless to deliver the technology.

Traditional 2G, 3G or 4G networks require expensive and bulky equipment for their deployment and operation and these hardware-based networks are traditionally difficult and pricey to upgrade.

"By shifting networks to virtualized open RAN, MTN can cloudify their networks to deliver coverage to every single subscriber at much lower cost. Low-cost wireless coverage will fuel economic growth, improve infrastructure, and reduce costs for consumers ensuring access to connectivity with the best technology and leaving nobody behind," added Christoph Fitih, sales director for Africa at Parallel Wireless.

The potential cost savings are significant: Telefónica noted today at the TIP Summit in Amsterdam that an open RAN deployment in Latin America also using Parallel Wireless technology offers savings of up to 50% on the network systems compared with the cost of "traditional" radio access network equipment. (See Facebook, Telefónica take OpenRAN 'Live' in Peru, boast 450K subs.)

As a member of TIP, MTN carries out solution testing on all hardware and software elements at its head office in Johannesburg, South Africa. Open RAN relies on off-the-shelf hardware (COTS) and industry standard (3GPP) defined interfaces between the baseband processing unit and the radio units. The whole system is orchestrated around a software that can be executed either in the cloud or locally.

The MTN Group has around 240 million customers in 21 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Rob Shuter, MTN Group president and CEO
Rob Shuter, MTN Group president and CEO

— Paula Gilbert, Editor, Connecting Africa

Innovation hub


Interview: Qualcomm execs on mentorship for African startups

Qualcomm Technology VP for Engineering, Sudeepto Roy, and Elizabeth Migwalla, VP for Government Affairs, join Connecting Africa for a video interview about Qualcomm's Make in Africa Mentorship Program.


Hot startup of the month: Pan-African fintech KamaPay

This month's hot startup is pan-African fintech KamaPay, which helps individuals and businesses make cross-border payments on the continent.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Sponsored video

More videos

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Flash poll

All polls

Africa Tech Perspectives


Deep dive into East Africa's tech startup ecosystem

New survey reveals a lack of access to investors, reliance on international VCs and global recession trends as the biggest barriers for East African tech startups to access funds.


Challenges and opportunities for women's tech careers

A new survey reveals that COVID-19, the cost-of-living crisis, skills shortages and a lack of mentorship have negatively affected women's career development over the past two years.


Survey: Opportunities for Women in Tech

Take our new survey for women across Asia, Europe and Africa looking at the biggest challenges and opportunities for women-led enterprises and trends in tech careers for women.

More AfricaCom perspectives

Upcoming events

London Tech Week
June 13-16, 2023
Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Broad Sanctuary, London SW1P 3EE
Cybertech Africa 2023
August 1-2, 2023
Kigali Convention Center, Kigali, Rwanda
Africa Tech Festival, Home of AfricaCom and AfricaTech
November 13-16, 2023
CTICC, Cape Town
More Upcoming events

Guest Perspectives


Omdia View: February 2023

By Omdia Analysts

In February 2023 key events in the Middle East and Africa included a major Internet project for Africa's underserved by Liquid Intelligent Technologies and Microsoft as well as a 5G launch in Tanzania – that and more in this month's Omdia View.


Omdia View: July 2022

By Omdia Analysts

Kenya and Zambia move towards 5G with new spectrum allocations while Tunisie Telecom plans to shut down its 3G network - that and more in this month's Omdia View.

More Guest Perspectives

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up