MTN calls for more broadband penetration in South Africa
MTN South Africa says significant infrastructure investment is necessary in order to meet government's national broadband targets of extending universal access to broadband services by 2030. Krishna Chetty, General Manager of Radio Planning and Quality at MTN South Africa, says a narrower definition of broadband penetration should comprise of a trimvirate of three variables, namely affordability, availability and accessibility.
Using the affordability criteria, the industry can ascertain household affordability of a basket of services using average household per capita income, and the consumer's awareness of the benefits of available services. The key here is to ensure that services are relevant and add value to the lives of the consumer.
Accessibility determines the number of consumers who have access to quality network coverage that meets the quality of service (QoS) standards. This entails massive amounts of investment to realise the quality levels.
Availability defines consumer's access to the device ecosystem across the spectrum of network technologies such as 2G, 3G and LTE. It gauges consumer access to devices such as feature phones, smartphones and tablets that will enable them to access a range of services that are available in the market. Partnerships with manufacturers are necessary to drive the cost down so as to lower the barrier to entry for rural consumers. Government subsidies aligned to this can also add traction to this initiative.
Chetty says that the current broadband penetration presents an opportunity for the industry and its stakeholders, including government, to establish a public private partnership that will seek to bridge the digital divide inorganically by taking a proactive approach to investment. He says MTN has made significant progress since the beginning of the year in deploying its fiber network.
In June 2015, MTN connected a significant number of customers to its fibre to the home network (FTTH) network in Gauteng, and is currently trenching in more areas in the province. MTN plans to connect over 1 000 homes in the Western Cape to its FTTH network by the end of this year, and the operator has invested R1.2 billion for network upgrades in Kwa-Zulu Natal which will fund the expansion of its FTTH network, with the first set of homes expected to go live at the end of October 2015 in La Lucia.