MTN outlines broadband plans

Paul Vecchiatto
By Paul Vecchiatto, ITWeb Cape Town correspondent
Cape Town, 09 Feb 2005

MTN`s data offerings have largely been overshadowed by the noise of its rival`s launch of 3G, but the network operator says it will soon make a big noise about its offerings.

Joash Chellan, MTN`s senior manager of business solutions management marketing, says MTN will soon formally announce the launch of its Enhanced Data over GSM Evolution (EDGE) services - the upgrade to the current generation of GPRS services. MTN plans to launch its full commercial EDGE offerings within a few weeks.

Later in the year it will launch UTMS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), which is essentially a 3G offering.

Chellan was speaking at a gathering of solution providers in Cape Town this morning.

MTN has not yet determined prices, but he expects the pricing structure to be competitive.

He acknowledges that at R10 per megabyte per second, MTN`s download rates are quite expensive, but prices should drop as data usage picks up.

"We have adopted a conservative strategy in moving to new technologies as we want it to be backward-compatible to earlier generation devices. Currently the EDGE part of the network now covers about 200 000 square kilometres, or 20% of our current network. There are also about 200 000 EDGE devices available," he says.

While EDGE is considered an extension of the current GPRS and GPRS+ technology, UMTS and its upgrade HSDPA (High Speed Download Packet Application) are new generation technologies that will lead to download speeds of about 14MBps.

MTN says it will begin testing UMTS and HSDPA later this year.

"Essentially this means we have a dual bearer strategy that we believe has significant advantages over a purely 3G-led strategy. The whole idea is to enhance the subscriber`s experience," Chellan says.