MTN GlobalConnect grows connectivity in Africa

Samuel Mungadze
By Samuel Mungadze, Africa editor
Johannesburg, 28 Sept 2022
MTN GlobalConnect CEO Frédéric Schepens.
MTN GlobalConnect CEO Frédéric Schepens.

MTN Group has set its sights on the bulging broadband market across Africa, aiming to rollout a total of 135 000km of proprietary fibre by 2025, and generate up to $1 billion for its network-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service.

The group has set in motion a multi-pronged approach to conquer the market through its digital wholesale and infrastructure services company MTN GlobalConnect.

MTN GlobalConnect is leading the telco’s broadband offensive, aiming to make the Pan-African mobile operator the number one fibre player on the continent.

Launched in 2018, MTN GlobalConnect is the main driver for the consolidation of MTN’s international and national major wholesale mobility and fixed connectivity activities.

The company says accelerating the pace of investments in digital infrastructure in Africa will be critical to ensure the growth of Africa's economies and livelihoods for years to come.

MTN GlobalConnect CEO, Frédéric Schepens, who hosted the GMSA WAS #16 event in Cape Town last week, tells ITWeb in an interview that the company is upping its investment in fixed infrastructure. It has partnered with leading carriers, hyperscalers and telecoms service providers to further African connectivity, he noted.

“We are invested in driving affordable connectivity on the African continent, making the highways of telecommunication accessible and available, enabling our belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life.

“We are building scale infrastructure assets to meet the explosive growth in data traffic and accelerate the digital economy in Africa, creating a Pan-African fibre railroad, delivered as an open access service to customers.”

Cable power

MTN GlobalConnect’s fixed connectivity business offers access to 15 submarine cables and operates fibre networks in Africa.

The company has direct tier one level investments in the WACS and ACE cables on the west coast of Africa, and EIG and EASSy cables on the east.

It also has substantial indirect investments in cables such as AAE-1 SMW5 on the north-east coast of Africa connecting to Europe, and TEAMS on the east coast, among others.

MTN Group also owns and operates four subsea cable landing stations in Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and South Africa.

“As a business, we are actively filling the gap with the rollout of our network infrastructure (terrestrial and subsea cables partnerships), building railroads around Africa to advance network coverage, enabling our Y’elloConnect communication platforms, which underpin our wholesale mobility business role in creating future digital economies,” says Schepens.

“Our targets, underpinned by MTN’s Ambition 2025 strategy, is the rollout a total of 135 000km of proprietary fibre by 2025, generating up to $1 billion of revenue, entrenching MTN as the number one African fibre player by building subsea scalable capacity and resilience.”

The blueprint

Detailing how MTN GlobalConnect intends to garner a strong market position, Schepens says: “We will support this evolution by operating our Pan-African proprietary fibre network in an open access model. This is the most effective way to provide access to carriers, OTT and service providers.

“Our wholesale mobility services capitalise on the infrastructure and the magnitude of the MTN customer base, which is currently more than 280 million subscribers.

“We offer an array of digital connectivity services through our signalling, voice interconnect, messaging and roaming communication platforms. We are fortunate to have access to such a large customer base and to be able to design solutions for our partners to reach this substantial population.

“Offering the backbone network in Africa, we provide reliable solutions for fixed connectivity and international wholesale mobility services; it’s the single-entry point to the most extensive network infrastructure on the continent.”

Citing World Bank studies, Schepens says Sub-Saharan Africa will be home to more than one billion people, with 50% under the age of 25 by 2050, and this presents a huge opportunity for the company.

“Sub-Saharan is also the world’s largest free trade area. According to a GSMA prediction, we will have 623 million mobile subscribers in 2025, compared to 456 million in 2018. We need to provide the infrastructure Africa needs in the future to live a modern connected life.

“At the heart of our strategy is to make connectivity possible and accessible, and enable the entire digital ecosystem through our mobility platforms and high-quality fixed connectivity. We will improve capacity and coverage through fibre and wholesale mobility services on the African continent.

In addition, he says MTN GlobalConnect’s aim is to “provide affordable, high-quality broadband and coverage from East to West Africa that will foster innovation, expand the African digital economy, and contribute to socio-economic growth in the countries we operate.

“We do this through our terrestrial fibre deployments, subsea cable landings as part of the 2Africa consortium. The 2Africa subsea cable system aims to expand Africa’s internet capacity almost threefold by supporting the growth and development of 4G, 5G and broadband.”