Of the 21 countries in which MTN operates, its South African operation has the least spectrum assigned to it outside countries that face conflict situations.
Speaking to an audience in Midrand on Thursday, MTN South Africa chief technology & information officer Giovanni Chiarelli said an analysis shows that only MTN’s operations in Afghanistan, South Sudan and Yemen have less spectrum allocated to them than the South African business.
All its other operations across Africa and the Middle East have more spectrum — in some cases, significantly more — Chiarelli said.
“The oxygen we need to develop the mobile industry in the country is super limited,” he said. “The countries behind us are in civil wars or war scenarios. I don’t think South Africa deserves this position.”
South African operators have still not been allocated spectrum for rolling out 4G networks — eight years after the technology was first introduced around the world — and have been forced instead to reallocate spectrum originally assigned for 2G and 3G infrastructure to deploy their 4G networks.
Both MTN and its main South Africa rival, Vodacom, have complained regularly that they are increasingly running into network constraints because of the failure to allocate 4G spectrum timeously.
Communications regulator Icasa is finally expected to license new spectrum bands by the end of March 2018 after resolving a dispute with government over the process.
“We really hope there will be a positive conclusion for the entire industry in the next six months, otherwise the situation will be unsustainable,” Chiarelli said.
He said MTN has invested R40-billion in its network in South Africa in the past four years. “Our willingness to invest is visible.”
But he cautioned that without additional spectrum, future investment is not guaranteed.
“Innovation is possible in the country, but we need the right platforms, the right skills and the right enablers to make it happen,” he said.
MTN’s research shows the markets where the group has the most spectrum available to it are Rwanda, Cameroon and Nigeria, respectively. Uganda and Congo-Brazzaville round out the top five. — (c) 2018 NewsCentral Media