MTN Uganda has been rapidly upgrading their infrastructure and systems over the last few years. We caught up with the CTO, Rami Farah to get insights into his view of things at Uganda’s largest telecoms operator.
MTN has invested heavily in technology leading the pack over the years. What is the MTN Group Vision in as far as technology is concerned? What are you doing to adhere to the Group Vision? (LTE, 3G, EDGE, etc.)
In line with the new vision ‘To lead the delivery of a bold new Digital World to our customers’, MTN is heavily investing in technologies that facilitate the digital world. one of the key drivers of data traffic is video, people are watching videos for news, Video conferencing, leisure, entertainment right on their mobile devices and indeed many are talking of a post pc world already thus this content previously limited to televisions and PCs now has to be delivered via mobiles thus the need for high speed technologies like HSPA, HSPA+ already deployed and 4GLTE which we have already launched. We are even looking at edge evolution as it raises edge to a level close to 3G in the future, other investments include upgrades in the Transmission and IP core to support these services efficiently as we progressively evolve our network from TDM to pure IP.
In addition to that, MTN launched the MTN Business which address the corporates and SME needs (Banking sector, Health sector etc.) in terms of communication infrastructure and facilities.
We witnessed the commissioning of the Fibre Optic line in Katuna a few months ago. Why is this line important and who are the beneficiaries?
To support delivery of bold new digital world to our customers it’s imperative to have high speed connections to the global internet, East Africa finally has submarine cables like TEAMs, Eassy, Seacom, lion etc. and we were previously connected only via Mombasa which was a single point of failure. The connection via Katuna allows us an alternate route via Rwanda to Dar es Salaam and is hence a vital connection because our customers demand high availability for their services which was not possible via just one route making this a very important connection.
What was the investment in this project?
MTN through the years, managed to solve the issues of being a land locked country with no direct access to the sea through the deployment of more than 2600 KM of fiber that has enabled connectivity through countries to the undersea cables. This project was the last step in ensuring connectivity from Kenya to Dar-es salaam, through Rwanda. This was a project that included a number of deliverables one of which was to increase capacity. The overall project cost including the commissioning of the Katuna fiber was over $17 million.
In 2012, you commissioned the Mutundwe Switch, rolled out high speed data and rolled out LTE. How does this position MTN in the market and what does it mean for your customers?
For our customers it shows MTN’s commitment to continue providing services relevant to their current and future needs, and firmly positions MTN as a leader with a clear vision for the future; leading the way for others to follow.
What was MTN’s investment in infrastructure in 2012, especially in the area of technology? What is the planned investment in 2013 and what areas are we looking at?
In 2013 alone, MTN Uganda plans to invest USD 70 million added to another USD 80 million spent in 2012. This investment has been mainly in expanding the network infrastructure to support the mobile subscribers growth as well as rollout new innovative products and digital solutions.
You have rolled out LTE, can you throw more light on this?
We are the first in the region and among the very first globally to launch LTE. The launch of LTE represents a major jump in mobile connectivity capabilities in Uganda. The service has the potential to operate at speeds of up to 100mbps, which is almost tripple the speed of any existing mobile connection available commercially not just in Uganda, but the region.
For the customer this means you can download large files in no time at all, stream music videos and HD movies without buffering and upload pictures with no delays. Stutter free video and gaming and next generation HD video and voice service that will change the way you interact with the world.
Tell us more about your Regional Switching centres?
MTN has 3 regional switching centres located in Tororo, Mbarara and Masindi. The purpose of these centres is to improve network resilience and efficiency. This is in line with MTN’s new vision and mission. To lead the delivery of a bold, new Digital World to our customers’ and ‘To make our customers’ lives a whole lot brighter’.