MTN SA CEO Godfrey Motsa said they support government’s wireless open access network (WOAN), as long as it is not a monopoly.
Motsa was speaking at a workshop on the ECA Amendment Bill.
The Bill proposes a WOAN which will receive all currently-unassigned high-demand radio frequency spectrum – including in the 700MHz, 800MHz, 2.6GHz, and 3.5GHz bands.
It also proposes the return of spectrum already assigned to operators.
“Why do we have to return the spectrum like we stole it? There is no original sin in the spectrum – it’s a 1994 thing,” said Motsa.
Motsa warned that monopolies will never deliver quality networks, stimulate economic growth, or drive innovation.
While the Bill focuses on stimulating competition at a service level, you need competition at an infrastructure level as well, he said.
Monopolising the spectrum does not address the elephant in the room – transformation – said Motsa.
The Bill ignores the fact that to ensure economic transformation, the issue of where equipment, goods, and services are procured needs to be addressed.
He went on to highlight that MTN has spent billions of its procurement budget with black-owned businesses, companies owned by black women, and SMMEs.
Motsa said that whatever happens with respect to the Bill, the government and the industry need to make sure South Africa is globally competitive.
Using China as an example, Motsa said that with just three mobile networks, the country has achieved over 90% LTE population coverage.
South African operators are at under 80% population coverage, despite the country being much smaller than China in size and population.
“It doesn’t make me happy to hear from China that they have 90% LTE population coverage, and I’m at 76%. It doesn’t make me happy to hear that they have spectrum, while I don’t,” said Motsa.
“We have to ensure that we are globally competitive.”
Not all bad
While MTN disagreed with the Bill’s approach to a national wholesale open access network, MTN welcomed its inclusions of rapid deployment.
“It takes us six to nine months on average to acquire sites. In some places it takes 20 to 24 months,” said Motsa.
For this reason, the inclusion of rapid deployment to help network operators roll out infrastructure quickly is welcomed.