MTN South Africa CEO Godfrey Motsa announced that the mobile operator will reach 90% 4G population coverage by the end of the year.
Speaking at a media briefing in Johannesburg, Motsa said when MTN reaches this coverage figure by the end of 2018 more than 50 million South Africans will be covered by its 4G network.
He added that MTN will be the first in South Africa to reach this 4G milestone and the acceleration of MTN’s 4G network in South Africa is unprecedented – and has been much faster than that of previous technologies.
At the end of 2015, MTN’s mobile network had 4G network coverage for 5 million South Africans.
“Detractors will tell you that we only roll out 4G in rich areas, but that is not true for MTN,” Motsa said.
He said that MTN’s number of rural sites shows its dedication to providing coverage across the country and not just in major metros.
Motsa also stressed the importance of a good fibre backbone to deliver widespread coverage in South Africa.
“For us, it doesn’t just stop with the radio access network, we also need a strong fibre network,” he said. MTN South Africa has more than 18,000km of fibre infrastructure in South Africa.
“The fibre network we have today in the country is the biggest after Telkom,” Motsa said.
He said MTN’s fibre network is very important to its continued growth, and the operator sees it as complementary to its radio network.
Motsa also spoke about MTN’s new roaming deal with Cell C, stating that it is about infrastructure sharing in the industry – allowing Cell C to greatly improve its 4G population coverage while also benefiting MTN.
He noted that Cell C has improved its 4G population coverage from percentages in the 30s to above 80% in a very short time due to the roaming deal with MTN.
“I want to emphasise the point that MTN is open to sharing in commercially-agreeable arrangements,” Motsa said.
MTN said its competition with other mobile operators to reach 100% population coverage is a great driver towards a better customer experience.
“There is a huge battle between us and other mobile operators to reach 100% 4G coverage in South Africa,” Motsa said.
He added that if the government’s WOAN plan is implemented without consideration for infrastructure competition, prices of mobile data could suffer.
“The idea of opening our wholesale network at cost will disincentivize us from improving our infrastructure,” Motsa said.
“We believe that if you undermine infrastructure competition, you will hurt prices. A hybrid model meets government objectives and industry objectives.”