MTN selects partners to expand mobile OpenRAN network in Africa

MTN Group (MTNJ.J), a South African mobile and internet operator, announced on Wednesday that it has chosen five partners to launch an open radio access network (OpenRAN) throughout Africa to extend 4G and 5G services more quickly and affordably.

A radio access network (RAN) uses radio links to connect individual devices to other sections of a network.

MTN and its partners, Voyage, India’s Tech Mahindra (TEML.NS), and US-based enterprises Altiostar, Mavenir, and Parallel Wireless, said they hoped to deploy OpenRAN by the end of 2021.

Nokia (NOKIA.HE), Ericsson (ERICb.ST), Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [RIC:RIC:HWT.UL], and other companies’ network equipment used to be mostly proprietary, making it impossible to mix and match.

However, constraints imposed by the US government on Huawei’s ability to source semiconductors have accelerated the use of openRAN technology, which allows any vendor to assemble industry-standard chips and software to construct interoperable networking equipment.

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

A radio access network accounts for the majority of capital and operating costs for mobile network carriers. MTN announced it would use OpenRAN to modernize its radio access networks, reducing power consumption and emissions and advancing its goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2040.

MTN, Africa’s largest telecoms company by customers, implemented open-source technologies for the first time in 2019 to enhance rural coverage. Over 1,100 commercial installations have been installed across over 11 countries.

MTN has a total of 277.9 million customers throughout Africa and the Middle East.

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