MTN deploys over 2 500 5G sites across its markets

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 28 Apr 2023
MTN Group president and CEO Ralph Mupita.
MTN Group president and CEO Ralph Mupita.

Mobile network operator MTN has rolled out over 2 500 5G sites across the markets in which it operates.

This was revealed when MTN, which is Africa’s biggest mobile network operator, this week released its integrated report for the year ended 31 December 2022.

“In the period, we rolled out 3 498 3G and 7 993 4G sites, culminating in our 3G and 4G coverage increasing by nine million and 45 million people, respectively,” says Ralph Mupita, MTN Group CEO.

“In 2022, we rolled out 1 570 5G sites, mainly in South Africa and Nigeria, bringing our total number of 5G sites to 2 527,” he adds.

In South Africa, MTN is rolling out 5G after winning spectrum in the auction held by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa. Additional spectrum is expected to be released in the short-term.

After winning 100MHz spectrum for 5G in the auction, MTN became the first operator to launch 5G in Nigeria in 2022.

“We are targeting 10% 5G population coverage by end-2023. The other spectrum winner is yet to launch its network.”

According to Mupita, MTN increased smartphone penetration to 58% of its customer base (up 3.8 percentage points), as it continued its push for greater digital and financial inclusion.

MTN GlobalConnect (MTN GC), which drives MTN’s FibreCo ambitions, continued to scale its fixed connectivity and wholesale mobility services, says Mupita.

“It rolled out 5 157km of new fibre in 2022, bringing our total inventory to more than 105 157km of proprietary fibre and comparing well with our 2025 target of 135 000km.”

MTN GC formed a strategic Pan-African connectivity partnership with Microsoft, he notes. This will see MTN GC provide access to large-scale infrastructure services that will build capacity for Microsoft to drive digital transformation and enable a connected African continent.

Overall in 2022, Mupita says, MTN GC signed fixed external infrastructure deals valued at $90.8 million.

“In our fintech business, active MoMo [Mobile Money] users rose by 21.4% to 69.1 million, while the volume of transactions processed through our platform grew by 33.9% year-on-year (YOY) to 13.4 billion. Although the pricing reductions in Côte d’Ivoire impacted overall service revenue growth, this has recovered in line with expectations, with a positive YOY trajectory in Q4.

“Importantly, we sustained the expansion of our fintech ecosystem, increasing active agents and merchants by 30.3% and 86%, respectively. This is critical to the medium- and long-term growth of our business; supporting increased activity, revenue and cash flow in fintech.

“We drove the momentum in our MoMo Payment Services Bank in Nigeria, following its launch in Q2 2022, even though the growth in active wallets was slowed by the temporary suspension of the Nigerian Interbank Settlement System interface in Q3.

“The interface was reopened as planned, starting with inbound transfers in December 2022 and the outbound phase completed post the year-end.”

From a commercial perspective, MTN implemented several price optimisation measures required to ensure the long-term sustainability of its business and the level of investment required to maintain the capacity and quality of networks.

“In this regard, we also accelerated our customer value management efforts and streamlined promotions and rationalised our offerings where necessary to help manage churn and optimise effective pricing,” the CEO says.

He points out MTN SA announced below-inflation tariff increases across its postpaid plans (effective from 1 April 2023) and in markets with particularly high inflation, such as Ghana, the telco implemented selective price reviews.

“In hyperinflationary markets such as South Sudan and Sudan, price revisions are considered on an ongoing basis and we remain engaged with regulators in markets such as Nigeria, Uganda, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau regarding market pricing.

“To manage challenges in our supply chain, we continued to employ the comprehensive risk mitigation strategies we have had in place for a number of years now. As part of this, we leveraged our scale and worked with partners for advance purchase orders to ensure sufficient coverage for critical spares for our networks and operations.

“We also accelerated initiatives for more local currency pricing for IT and network expenditure, as well as improvements in price books.”