MTN South Africa said on Friday that it will be ready to use much of the additional spectrum allocated to it by communications regulator Icasa within the next four to six weeks.
Icasa on Friday announced it had allocated temporary spectrum to MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, Rain and Liquid Telecom as part of a plan to alleviate constraints on networks amid the Covid-19 pandemic, with many people forced to work from home.
“MTN’s immediate focus, in deploying the spectrum, will be to significantly ease the congestion that we are seeing in hotspots across the country,” the operator said in an e-mailed statement.
“As part of our application to Icasa, we identified specific sites and broader sectors that would benefit from the temporary spectrum allocation, where we’ve seen congestion building on our network,” it said. “Following the allocation of spectrum, we have now turned our attention to a four- to six-week radio roll-out plan and adding additional capacity to the mobile core network.”
It said it began a modernisation of its network last year in anticipation of the licensing of additional both 4G- and 5G-suitable spectrum.
“This leaves MTN well placed to deploy the spectrum in the 700MHz and 800MHz bands and in the 2.6 GHz band sooner than other bands of spectrum. The deployment at 3.5GHz will require additional antenna infrastructure and deployment in this band will be more complex.”
The 3.5GHz band is one of those identified internationally for 5G, so this suggests a 5G roll-out by MTN may take more time than providing additional capacity using older-generation technologies in the other spectrum bands.
“For the temporary spectrum bands allocated, we will have to deploy new radio units which are band specific. These are already on order and MTN is taking every step to expedite the process,” MTN said.
Vodacom, meanwhile, said the temporary assignment of spectrum will help alleviate network congestion during the Covid-19 lockdown.
“In recent weeks, mobile network traffic has increased by about 40% as more people work from home and turn to online services for entertainment.”
Vodacom said the additional spectrum can be used until the earlier of either three months after the national disaster period has ended or 30 November 2020. — © 2020 NewsCentral Media