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MTN takes a step towards a LTE broadband future

Published Jul 17, 2011


MTN South Africa is preparing to try out a Long Term Evolution (LTE) broadband network which will increase the carrying capacity of its network and is a step towards so-called fourth-generation (4G) technology.

For consumers this translates into greater data up- and downloading speeds, particularly for seamless on-demand video and broadcast services and gaming.

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According to international telecommunications news website, TV stations in Norway are using LTE for live TV broadcasts in lieu of stationing vans packed with broadcasting signal-transmission equipment at sites.

MTN SA chief technology officer Lambo Kanagaratnam said the technology innovation could one day evolve to scenarios where cars with built-in systems running on LTE would be able to navigate themselves or sense emergency braking from the car in front and transmit a warning.

Adoption of LTE is also expected to enhance South Africa’s global competitiveness.

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Kanagaratnam said MTN aimed for LTE’s commercial roll-out in two to three years.

MTN’s pilot will run on 10 megahertz (MHz) of a refarmed 1 800 MHz spectrum, and at a speed of 70 megabits per second (Mbps) – the speed of data transfer – and a latency of about 15 milliseconds. The speed is almost twice as fast as what is currently available on the market.

Latency refers to the amount of time a packet of data takes to move from one designated point to another.

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Analysts have said increased consumer demand for data and the strain on current networks as subscriber bases grow indicate the market is ready for the next-generation technology.

Internationally, 208 operators in 80 countries are investing in LTE. By May commercial launches of LTE had taken place in the US and Scandinavian countries, according to information provided by cellphone and communications infrastructure maker Ericsson and the Global mobile Suppliers Association.

MTN’s study, conducted with international technology infrastructure producers Huawei and Ericsson, will cover about 100 sites around Gauteng.

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These include parts of the suburbs of Sandton, Fourways, Centurion, around OR Tambo International airport and in the vicinity of the MTN head office in Roodepoort, and is the first of its scale in Africa.

The trial will provide only data and no voice capability to avoid compromising the quality of the existing network spectrum. Selected MTN subscribers will be provided with internet dongles.

MTN’s announcement on Thursday comes a year after rival Vodacom, South Africa’s largest cellphone company, launched its live LTE network as one of the first such live networks in the world and first of its kind in Africa. Vodacom’s trial has a theoretical download speed of 150mbps.

In March, Cell C announced its 42 Mbps high performance HSPDA network. It is testing LTE on its 900 MHz spectrum and 850 MHz test spectrum with reported speeds of 100 Mbps.

It said future network upgrades would focus on LTE.

MTN has revealed it has spent R18 billion on infrastructure over the past three years and will deploy a further R4bn to R6bn over the next few years.

The share has risen 4.3 percent since July 8 to close at R146.50 on Friday. - Asha Speckman

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