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MTN SA sees double-digit data traffic growth under lockdown

Read time 4min 20sec

As many South Africans have been required to work from home amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and national lockdown, MTN SA has seen a 51% surge in data traffic since February 2020.

This is according to Fatima Mayet, senior manager for IT operations at MTN SA, reflecting on how COVID-19 has affected the telco’s operations.

Mayet made the comments yesterday during the online broadcast of the Public Sector ICT Forum event. The forum, organised by ITWeb Brainstorm in association with MTN Business, is a platform for public sector ICT decision-makers to engage and discuss topics that are key to innovation in service delivery.

Shortly after the announcement of the national lockdown, the country’s telecoms operators were already anticipating a data usage boom. While there were no figures at the time, Mayet said yesterday there has been approximately 100% growth in data traffic volume since February 2019.

“I’m pleased to say from an MTN SA perspective, we managed to take on that additional capacity with absolutely no disruption to users during this time,” she said. “Our data network is quite resilient.”

Corporate online activity and Netflix video traffic were among the types of communications that increased on the MTN network, she noted.

Fatima Mayet, senior manager for IT operations at MTN SA.
Fatima Mayet, senior manager for IT operations at MTN SA.

Six-pillar model

To facilitate its work from home strategy for its 11 000 employees, 5 000 of which are permanent staff and the rest outsourced vendors or contractors, MTN focused on six pillars, according to Mayet.

Most organisations were used to operating on a face-to-face basis. In a span of a week, MTN, like most companies, had to ensure it can operate its business with staff working from home.

As the most important pillar, MTN had to ensure employees have connectivity in order to support the company in the working from home scenario, she said. “Sixty percent of our base already had VPNs [virtual private networks], so they were well looked after. However, we had to sort out 40% of the base and make sure they could perform their business functions.

“Pillar number two was collaboration and this was moving MTN from a face-to-face organisation to using online collaboration tools for meetings. Pillar number three is desk-bound users, which mainly comprises the call centres – this was the most difficult aspect to the work from home solution that we put in place.

“From a tooling perspective, we had to make sure we had the right tools in place to support the work from home situation. Because of the remote working model, we had to put tighter controls in place to cater for the unsecure home WiFi connections.

“Pillar number six is employee productivity and wellbeing; we had to ensure we were not dropping the ball while the company was working from home. We had to provide the same level of service the customer received before lockdown.”

These measures allowed MTN to set up a remote working programme that could be delivered in a couple of days, to ensure the end-customer does not have any impact in terms of service. “MTN SA had the entire organisation working offsite after five days.

“In the collaboration space, MTN SA utilises MS [Microsoft] Teams. The adoption of MS Teams was very low before lockdown because the culture is very much a face-to-face culture. However, we were forced to adopt Teams. Within five days, 100% of our meetings within MTN were done with Teams and we had about a 70% increase in Teams utilisation, and that is MTN SA alone.”

She indicated that 80% of the MTN SA workforce continues to work from home, even though the lockdown has eased. “Because the guys are productive enough from home, there is actually no need for 80% of our workforce to actually go into the office.”

In a COVID-19-shaped world, everything has moved or is moving to digital, she noted.

“The biggest issue that I’ve seen is that we had to fast-track digital enablement in many sectors. If you look at the education system, I believe we have to have an online platform for education as well as an online platform for exams because there isn’t going to be June exams this year because it is impossible.

“In order for any company to survive, we need to be agile to adapt to any situation. From an IT perspective, this means we need to build more agile systems with the ability to break out, or the ability to have on-demand capacity to react to emerging needs.

“The COVID-19 crisis forced us to do things very quickly…I believe we will constantly react to change in the environment and we need to make sure our systems can react as fast as human beings as well,” she concluded.

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