Mobile networks will support 4IR connectivity requirements

16th August 2019

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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Mobile network operators will play a critical role in providing the high-performing infrastructure ecosystem that will enable other industries to harness the benefits of digitalisation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

As the world shifts to solutions such as articficial intelligence applications, immersive virtual realities, self-driving cars, remote medical surgery, holographic teleportation, drone deliveries, smart agriculture, connected cities and smart logistics, high performance and scalable networks are an increasing prerequisite.

“Over recent decades, telecommunications companies have provided the basic building blocks that gave millions of people access to telecommunications services, access to broadband and, later, other value-added services, such as financial services,” says MTN Business Western Cape regional GM Christopher Hopkirk.

Connectivity in the digital era has expanded the requirements drastically, from enterprise customers and the public sector demanding connectivity in less accessible places like mines underground, in factories located in remote locations, or at far-flung construction sites to consumers seeking out increased connectivity functionality in appliances, such as smart televisions, coffee machines and washing machines.

A significant share of potential value stemming from digitalisation across industries over the next decade is dependent on the telecommunications industry delivering essential infrastructure, applications and productivity improvements in many areas.

“This increased traffic requires mobile network operators to roll out purpose-built networks such as long-range wide area network and narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) networks, which provide seamless interoperability among smart things without the need for complex local installations, enable the roll-out of IoT applications, provide long battery life for devices, have a wider deployment and give improved reliability for users,” says Hopkirk.

To support this exponential increase in data traffic, MTN has embarked on a massive, three-year project to modernise its entire network infrastructure across the country to support IoT and prepare its network for the commercial roll-out of fifth-generation technology.

“This expansive network upgrade will lead to the entire radio and transmission network being updated to become NB-IoT compliant. This means that every site on our network will be upgraded to have the technical capabilities to support smart solutions that come with 4IR,” Hopkirk says of MTN’s “future-proofing” network modernisation programme.

MTN has also invested more than R40-billion over the past four years to improve network coverage and quality to support the connectivity requirements of its customers.

“We have managed to increase our network footprint substantially in the past, and we are proud to say that our fourth-generation network covers over 91% of the population, our third-generation network 98% of the population, while 99% of the population is covered by our second-generation network,” he concludes.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor


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