MTN expects to have 400–500 Long Term Evolution (LTE) sites live by the end of 2012, chief technology officer of MTN SA, Kanagaratnam Lambotharan, recently told journalists at a press event (25 September 2012).
Lambotharan said that MTN already has 250 sites ready to go, and is aiming to launch in Johannesburg, Pretoria, and Durban.
MTN is looking at Cape Town, he added, but said that there are some challenges to “re-farm” the spectrum needed to roll out LTE in the mother city.
This might result in Cape Town not receiving a full 2x10MHz carrier in the 1,800MHz band MTN is re-farming, Lambotharan said.
This announcement comes after MTN revealed in August 2012 that it wants to launch commercial LTE services before the end of the year.
MTN launched a Long Term Evolution (LTE) pilot in clusters around Gauteng in July 2011 with the aim of “revolutionising broadband provisioning in South Africa”.
Lambotharan explained at the time that they had “re-farmed” 10MHz of their 1800MHz spectrum to roll out the pilot LTE network.
MTN’s pilot network currently operates in clusters, covering parts of Sandton, Fourways, Centurion, around OR Tambo International Airport, and additionally in the vicinity of MTN Head Office in Roodeport. These will be expanding depending on spectrum re-farming efforts.
Asked about the performance users can expect out of LTE, MTN said it is difficult to predict real-world performance because a live environment is different, while user loading also has an impact.
However, MTN said that it is confident that LTE will give a great user experience.
“Depending on the network configuration, with a 2X2 MIMO real live speeds varies between 2Mbps to 66 Mbps (if you are the only user, latencies in a fibre back-haul environment should be anything between 10ms to 50ms),” said Lambotharan. “The user experience is comparable to a high speed fixed line environment.”