Telecommunications group MTN is set to commercially launch long-term evolution (LTE) in Johannesburg, Durban and Pretoria within the next three months.
The group, which would initially provide LTE coverage within the three cities, reported that about 40% of its network was capable of running LTE and HSPA+ technologies, said MTN South Africa chief technology officer Kanagaratnam Lambotharan.
LTE, and similar technologies, was expected to meet consumer needs for full service continuity, a seamless network and high-speed Internet connection, he said.
Over the past year, South Africa’s data consumption increased 200%, Smartphone use jumped 128% and the number of data users in South Africa rose to about 12-million.
The pricing structure for LTE service has not yet been finalised and the company only expected to grow the network as demand for LTE increased.
To date, through MTN’s BTS modernisation programme, over 2 800 sites were upgraded to enable the hosting of LTE and HSPA+ technology. Over 1 000 sites were upgraded during 2011, while over 1 600 would be upgraded by the end of 2012.
MTN reported spending about R7-billion during 2011 and 2012 on expanding its network capacity and capability and was expected to spend another R7-billion during 2013.
The group added 1 294 new third-generation (3G) sites to its portfolio during 2011 and 2012, and the network now provided 3G coverage to almost 65% of South Africa’s population through 3 851 sites countrywide. MTN aimed to reach between 80% and 85% 3G coverage by the end of 2013. The company’s EDGE capacity provided coverage to 92% of South Africa.
In 2011, MTN rolled out 204 new second-generation (2G) sites, followed by another 314 2G sites in 2012, bringing network coverage to 98.6% of the country’s population. Currently, MTN had 6 772 2G sites installed around South Africa.