MTN SA is at an advanced stage of planning that will result in it opening its network of base stations to rival operators in an effort aimed, in part, at reducing the company’s operating costs.
“In three or four years from now, I want two or three other operators on my infrastructure,” says MTN SA MD Karel Pienaar (pictured above). “It makes total sense.”
MTN’s move comes as rival Cell C is in talks to sell its national network of base stations, apparently in an effort, at least in part, to help defray its crippling long-term debt.
TechCentral reported this month that infrastructure operators Eaton Telecom and American Tower Corp are in line to buy Cell C’s network. The idea is that Cell C will then lease back capacity on the network from the winning bidder.
Unlike Cell C, however, MTN says it has no plan to sell its network, only to lease capacity on it to others.
Pienaar says MTN is still finalising which of a number of available infrastructure-sharing models it will pursue. But opening its network to other operators seems inevitable, not only to reduce costs but also to increase utilisation of its network.
Since MTN SA upgraded its network — it has invested more than R10bn in new network infrastructure in the past 24 months — it has abundant spare capacity. Only about 10% of the capacity on its 3G network is currently being used, Pienaar says. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral