National roaming: Telkom back on MTN in South Africa

MTN and Telkom sue South Africa regulator over Covid-19 spectrum

Less than three years after terminating its roaming agreement with MTN in favour of a similar arrangement with Vodacom, Telkom is back roaming on the MTN network.

The company said on Thursday that its customers will now have access to three networks – its own, Vodacom’s and MTN’s – after reaching a new roaming deal with MTN.

Telkom switched from MTN to Vodacom in mid-2019 in a blow to MTN South Africa’s wholesale business. It signed a comprehensive roaming agreement with Vodacom in December 2018, in terms of which it got access to Vodacom’s 2G, 3G and 4G services.

“In this latest agreement, effective 1 November 2021, MTN South Africa has been added for the provision of 2G, 3G and 4G services,” Telkom said. Under the old roaming agreement, Telkom did not have access to MTN’s 4G network, only its 2G and 3G infrastructure.

It is important for Telkom to roam on other operators’ networks as its infrastructure is not as widely deployed.

This means that, although it has coverage in the cities and bigger towns across South Africa, it does not always have coverage in outlying areas. As a result, it has to rely on roaming agreements to give its customers national coverage.

Lower costs

Lunga Siyo, CEO of Telkom Consumer, said in a statement: “The access to MTN South Africa’s 2G, 3G and 4G network adds coverage while reducing Telkom’s overall roaming costs. The addition of a second roaming partner is well within our current roaming spend. We remain on course with our plan to progressively reduce our roaming costs over time.”

Telkom customers get seamless handover of calls between Telkom and both roaming partners, Siyo said.

After substantial investments in recent years, MTN is widely regarded as having South Africa’s fastest mobile network, with Ookla — the owner of the popular Internet speed testing platform — recently showing MTN to be far ahead of its rivals in terms of network performance.


In Ghana, the Minister of Communications and Digitalization, Ursula Owusu Ekuful has announced the government and industry players are working on the modalities to roll out a nationwide roaming service.

That will enable customers of all networks have access to the best network within every location they find themselves in.

Ghana’s telecoms industry is one of the biggest and most advanced in emerging markets, so national roaming in a market like Ghana is long overdue.


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