MTN Group has said it will step up its investment into Open RAN systems to modernize its infrastructure across its operations in Africa.
Open RAN is an initiative of Facebook’s Telecom Infrastructure Project (TIP), aimed at offering a less expensive alternative to traditional networks by promoting a software-based approach using common hardware.
MTN has already been testing open RAN in rural areas across its operations, including Ghana, to a limited scale.
Last year, MTN signed separate deals with Parallel Wireless, Vanu and NuRAN Wireless with a target of deploying 5,000 Open RAN sites across all of its operation. Those deals have resulted in the deployment of 1,100 commercial locations using open RAN technology across 11 countries.
The technology helps MTN to deliver 2G, 3G and 4G connectivity simultaneously in unserved and under-served areas, because its deployment and maintenance costs much less, compared with traditional hardware.
The African telecom giant has revealed that for the expansion of its Open RAN footprint, it would use Altiostar, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, TechMahindra and Voyage as technology partners.
Indeed, at the launch of the MTN Ghana 25th Anniversary, CEO, Selorm Adadevoh announced that “MTN is investing approximately US$150 million in the network and IT systems to continue to connect the 15% of Ghanaians in our remotest communities without connectivity and to increase capacity and experience for those who already have service.”
The company said it expects use of open RAN as a network modernization tool in a cost efficient way as it rapidly expands 4G and 5G, while cutting power consumption and emissions.
It also hopes the use of the latest network technology will help it achieve a goal of net zero emissions by 2040.
Network planning and design executive at MTN, Amith Maharaj said the “much-needed flexibility” delivered by open RAN justified the need to work with more suppliers.
“This means that MTN can now look at building a network that can meet cost and capacity requirements of specific markets, or even rapidly deploy 5G and/or 4G seamlessly with existing legacy services. This is a real game-changer for mobile advancement in emerging markets.”
MTN CTO Charles Molapisi said the operator was “alive to the potential of open interfaces”.
“There is a lot of value that dominant players bring to the business, but telecommunications today is as much about the stability of the network as it is about new services,” he added.