MTN names Open RAN partners for network expansion in Africa

With partners in tow, MTN aims to roll out the Open RAN by the end of 2021

In January of 2020, the GSMA claimed that while South Africa is still several years away from widespread 5G adoption, the country is leading the rest of sub-Saharan Africa in the move towards more advanced networks. As part of that transition, South African operator MTN is launching an open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) in Africa to expand 4G and 5G services more quickly and affordably. Earlier this week, the operator named its five Open RAN partners: Voyage, India’s Tech Mahindra and U.S.-based vendors Altiostar, Mavenir and Parallel Wireless.

With partners in tow, MTN aims to roll out the OpenRAN by the end of 2021.

“This is a real game-changer for mobile advancement in emerging markets,” said Amith Maharaj, MTN group’s head of network planning and design.

The RAN is often the most expensive component of a network for an operator. However, a more open ecosystem will give MTN the ability to select and combine the best industry-standard chips and software from different vendors and partners for use in its RAN, lowering the cost and providing more flexibility.

Further, the carrier said that modernizing its radio access networks using Open RAN will allow it to reduce power consumption and emissions, which is in line with its previously stated goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2040.

MTN has 277.9 million subscribers across Africa and the Middle East, making it the largest telecommunications operator in Africa by subscribers. The carrier first launched 5G services in 2020 and in 2019, rolled out open-source technology to improve rural coverage and since then, has deployed over 1,100 commercial sites in more than 11 countries.

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