MTN and Huawei’s big solar plans

MTN is collaborating with Huawei to roll out RuralSolar to provide Internet access to remote and rural African communities.

RuralSolar is an affordable solution to make network connectivity available in regions where rolling out networks were previously unviable.

MTN and Huawei completed the first RuralStar proof-of-concept in Ghana in 2017. The two companies signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the eve of the 2023 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona.

The MoU includes a commitment from the two companies to extend their collaboration on the initiative.

The MTN Group’s chief sustainability and corporate affairs officer, Nompilo Morafo, said collaborative efforts are critical to bridging the digital divide.

“Working with companies like Huawei, we can pool our technologies and expertise to drive greater access to connectivity, digital skills and greener and more sustainable solutions to the benefit of all,” Morafo said.

The signing of the MoU forms part of MTN’s Ambition 2025 project, which aims to achieve 95% rural coverage in Africa by 2025. The company also plans to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2040.

Huawei will support MTN’s commitment to minimise the impact on the planet and achieve the goal by 2040.

The companies will work on reducing the carbon footprint of MTN’s telecommunications infrastructure, spanning radio access network sites, transport networks, storage, and data centres.

This will be done using a mix of energy-efficient technologies and implementing green solutions.

The MTN Group’s general manager of sustainability and shared value, Marina Madale, spoke at Huawei’s Green ICT Summit at MWC 2023, providing examples of the sustainability efforts the company has already undertaken.

Peng Song, Huawei president of ICT strategy and marketing

These efforts include installing over fifty Smart Solar-hybrid generators at key tower sites in Liberia and implementing solar power systems at its data centres in Rwanda.

The MTN Group’s efforts in Nigeria have helped it reduce energy consumption by 55,000kWh a year.

Huawei launched its Green 1-2-3 solution at its Green ICT Summit. The company’s ICT strategy and marketing president, Peng Song, explained that tech companies and cellular operators have a difficult decision to make.

Song highlighted the uptake of artificial intelligence (AI) in recent years, describing it as an “AI big bang”.

However, he noted that while it brings new benefits and opportunities to operators, AI can increase energy consumption significantly.

AI requires better ICT infrastructure due to the need for higher bandwidth and increased computing power, which causes a rapid increase in network energy consumption.

“The ICT industry seems to be faced with the tough choice to either go green or develop,” Song said.

“However, we believe the industry can choose not to choose [one or the other] and instead go green and develop simultaneously.”

Song explained that this is possible if the right balance between energy efficiency, renewable energy utilisation, and user experience is achieved.

Regarding renewable energy, Huawei called for operators to focus on expansion, from the scale of green power deployment to the efficient use of renewable energy.

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MTN and Huawei’s big solar plans