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


Africa can leverage GenAI for economic growth – Microsoft

A whitepaper on generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) and the future of work has found that the African continent, with its young population, can leverage AI to drive economic growth.

Registration opens for Africa Tech Festival 2024

Registration has opened for the 2024 edition of Africa Tech Festival, the continent's leading platform for technology innovators, specialists and thought leaders.

More Innovation hub

Latest video

More videos

Partner perspectives

All Partner Perspectives

Sponsored video

More videos

Follow us on X

Industry announcements

More Industry announcements

Upcoming events

Cyber Revolution Summit
August 9, 2024
Gaborone, Botswana
Africa Tech Festival 2024
November 11-14, 2024
Cape Town, South Africa
More Upcoming events

Africa Tech Perspectives


Uber's Marjorie Saint-Lot on inclusion and sustainability in Africa

Uber's Country Manager for Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire, Marjorie Saint-Lot, shares how the ride-hailing company is approaching public-private partnerships, environmentally friendly initiatives and gender inclusion in Africa.


The 100 most influential African leaders in 2023

A new report from Africa Tech Festival and Connecting Africa puts a spotlight on the top 100 African leaders in the telecoms and technology sector in 2023.


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.

More Africa Tech perspectives

Guest Perspectives


How e-mobility could transform Africa's transport sector

By Francis Hook

ICT analyst Francis Hook delves into Africa's e-mobility sector and unpacks the challenges faced locally and the benefits the move to electric vehicles could bring to urban transport systems.


Omdia View: April 2024

By Omdia Analysts

April 2024's telecoms highlights in the Middle East and Africa included a license for Starlink in Ghana, new mobile termination rates in Ethiopia, and 6G trials in Bahrain – that and more in the latest Omdia View.

More Guest Perspectives

Like us on Facebook

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign Up
Tag id test-002