MTN Uganda has become the first operator in Africa and the second in the world to go live with Ericsson's latest multimedia messaging (MMS) technology, the Multimedia Messaging Center (MMC) 4.0 platform.

The MMC 4.0 implementation forms part of a larger turnkey contract that MTN Uganda awarded to Ericsson in April this year for the supply of services, applications and infrastructure that enable MTN Uganda to offer its subscribers a range of rich data services. Other components of the deal include GPRS, MMS, WAP, Automatic Device Configuration, (ADC) and Charging Control Node (CCN) technology.

Says Noel Meier, CEO MTN Uganda: "Over the years that we have had a relationship, Ericsson has demonstrated that it has an acute understanding of our needs as well as the needs of our customers".

"We rely on Ericsson's ability to supply complete telecom systems and the seamless integration of all our components. We chose Ericsson for this particular project because it was able to offer an end-to-end solution comprising the infrastructure, professional services and applications we needed to power our MMS service."

"The Ericsson solution delivers on all components needed for MMS take-off, including device configuration, subscriber provisioning and flexible charging models," he adds. The architecture that MTN Uganda now has in place will enable the operator to roll out a host of data packages that will ensure that it retains its market-leading position.

In addition, Ericsson has rolled out a Service Aware Charging Control (SACC) solution at MTN Uganda, which allows for the implementation of advanced charging models for data services across prepaid and postpaid subscribers. As part of this charging architecture, the MMS system is integrated with MTN Uganda's prepaid system, ensuring real-time event based charging in a model that is easy for subscribers to understand.

The MMC 4.0 system also allows subscribers without MMS enabled devices to view their MMS messages on the web, and includes a transcoding engine to ensure content is delivered in an optimal format. Digital Rights Management support ensures that protected data from third party content providers can be flexibly distributed.

Ericsson is providing MTN Uganda with consulting services to help the operator develop its business model and market readiness for MMS. Many operators around the world already work with Ericsson to develop their business models as they roll out new services.

MTN Uganda launched their commercial services in October 1998 and has since grown into the country's leading operator with more than 800,000 subscribers. The operator has played an instrumental role in growing the size of Uganda's telecom market and making communications accessible to more people - teledensity in the country has quadrupled since MTN's arrival.

Ericsson has been working closely with MTN Uganda since the operator was established to drive voice growth and introduce innovative mobile services to the country. Among MTN Uganda's achievements was the commissioning of Africa's first dual-band cellular network in 2001, a project that was also undertaken together with Ericsson.

Says Adem Sumertas, key account manager for MTN Uganda at Ericsson's market unit for sub-Saharan Africa: "Ericsson is the leading player in mobile messaging with more than 100 MMS commercial contracts with major operators around the world and more than 30% of MMS commercial contracts awarded so far. We hold a unique position in the service layer of the evolving mobile market where new mobile services such as data are coming to the fore."