MTN South Africa says it has put optimisation plans into place to ensure stability and high-quality network connectivity during the festive season – while the operator is working on strategies to enhance network infrastructure even further in 2021.
It said that with Covid-19 increasing the demand for network services, the group’s network managed to accommodate a 60% rise in traffic during the lockdown, whilst optimising against load-shedding and power reductions at the same time.
It said that while the much-needed spectrum auction was delayed again, temporary spectrum was harnessed successfully to fill the void through the deployment of 4G and 5G technologies in 700/800, 2.6 and 3.5GHz bands.
Highlights in 2020 to date have included the launch of MTN’s 5G network in June, and the implementation of a new 360 Plan Security Model, which led to a significant 49% reduction in battery-related theft and vandalism incidents from the previous year, MTN said.
Recorded incidents of theft and vandalism declined from 2,195 in 2019 to 1,115 in the year to date in 2020.
“This reduction of incidents resulted in a 45% reduction in actual batteries losses over the year, from 13,066 to 7,150 from 2019 to 2020 respectively,” said Ernest Paul, GM: MTN Network Operations.
“We’re pleased to have made significant headway in 2020 and continue to put measures in place to safeguard our network and infrastructure to ensure customers continue to enjoy uninterrupted network connectivity at all times.
“Connectivity has permeated every aspect of our lives and unplanned network outages are not only disruptive, but also undermine ongoing initiatives to attract investment into SA and create much-needed employment opportunities.”
Tackling theft head-on
“Our 360 Plan Security Model stands out as a key turning point. It is an industry-first in the design of security services, modelled around a managed services approach, compared to the traditional resource-based models,” said Paul.
The plan incorporates Safe Deployments, Epoxy, Bluetooth Locking Devices, Security Intrusion and Video Surveillance, and the soon-to-be-rolled-out Authentication and Authorisation Access Control System on smart devices.
“It has further been strengthened by the Managed Service Physical Security approach by the National Operation Centre, which is the heartbeat of the entire 360 Plan. Added to this is tactical and armed response intervention, intelligence and investigations, special operations and airwing support to mention a few,” said Paul.
Results for Q4 2020 showed 153 stolen battery incidents recorded, down from 292 in the prior quarter and as many as 472 in the first quarter of the year. When compared to the previous year, the drop is even more drastic – 432 battery incidents were recorded in Q4 of 2019, with as many as 630 being seen in the first quarter of 2019, the operator said.
This success is also reflected in a reduction in the total quantum of batteries stolen – 837 in Q4 2020 from 1,920 in the prior quarter and compared with as many as 3,482 in Q1 of 2019.
“Even better news is the recovery rate, which is ticking up strongly. For November 2020, a total of 191 batteries were recovered, 5 vehicles impounded and a total of 19 suspects arrested and charged in accordance with the Criminal Matter Amendment (CMA) Act,” MTN said.
Other successes in the year to date include 240 arrests and a total of 857 lead acid batteries recovered together with 401 lithium batteries. Added to this is the recovery of 80 network copper cables.
Maintaining a full digital life
The rollout of OpenTime was a key achievement for 2020, made possible by the ability of MTN’s network to maintain quality user experiences in the face of higher demand.
“MTN’s core aim this year was to ensure more people could stay connected to loved ones, information, education and the full digital life during the tough months of the lockdown and beyond. OpenTime was a key enabler of digital access to over 350 health, education and work-related websites to stay connected, even when out of data,” said Paul.
MTN’s June 5G launch offered users the ability to stay in touch with the latest global tech advances. Following intense testing, MTN launched in all three band tiers across low/mid and high bands and covers over 100 sites.
“This added an extra layer to our services, opening the door to a world of new opportunities and ensuring our users are at the cutting edge of the latest technology. It included static and dynamic spectrum implementations,” said Paul.
Connecting at high-speed
MTN saw its LTE population coverage hit 96% during the year, while the operator also launched an Embedded SIM (eSIM) for devices such as Apple iPhone XR/11/12, Apple Watch, Samsung Note20/S20, and Samsung watch.
Looking ahead, major routes have been identified for network optimisation during the holiday season, with new base stations and technology upgrades deployed on selected 3G and LTE stations. Mobile base stations will also be deployed as required, where demand exceeds capacity, MTN said.
“Plans for the new year include continuing the RAN/IP/TX modernisation programmes, participating in the High Demand Spectrum Auction, putting more focus on the newly established MVNO division and ramping up 5G deployment if successful in the auction,” said Paul.
“The over-arching drive is to deliver a one-billion-euro investment in the entire network”.