MTN recently announced a partnership with several members of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) which will see the telecom advance network automation using TIP’s Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway (DCSG). In an interview with Mr. Ali Monzer, MTN Uganda Chief Technical Information Officer, he explains how DCSG technology will improve MTN’s quality of service and what it means for their customers.
- MTN recently announced the rollout of a Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway (DCSG) technology, what does that mean?
To understand DCSG, you ought to know how telephone calls are made. Currently, we have towers across the country which house antennas. These towers emit radio frequencies in the air which are displayed on your phone as 2G, 3G, and 4G. So, when making a call from Kampala to Mbarara for instance, your phone will communicate to a tower in Kampala through the antennae which sends the session to a switch center in Kampala where it will be processed and sent to a tower in Mbarara where the phone call receiver is.
We have switches in few centralized positions in the country. The above process of making a call from one area to another is made possible through a transport network. The transport network carries phone calls, data, messages, mobile money, and digital services as well. DCSG is the transport network that moves all telecommunication traffic.
A telecommunication transport network is very complex and expensive; involving a high capital investment for any telecommunication operator. DCSG is an innovation in the transport network which will enable MTN to run a much bigger automated end-to-end network at a lesser cost in a more efficient way.
And I have to say, we are the first in Africa to roll out this technology. It’s already in operation in Europe and North America and they are realizing the benefits. In Uganda, it will be rolled out in a phased manner.
- How will this new technology be rolled out?
We are currently at the design stage of this project, but it is important to note that the deployment of this technology is a journey because MTN has over 2,500+ sites. However, we are going to start the rollout in selected sites. We chose this path of deployment in order to clearly ascertain the impact and benefit of the technology especially in improving the service for our customers.
- What should your customers expect when deployment of this technology comes to life?
An improved service across all aspects including voice, data, SMS, and all other digital services. DCSG is going to optimize the transport network to streamline and improve our customer’s experience while using MTN services. For instance, it will allow us to optimize the latency. This means that if you are in Karamoja, the new technology should allow you to connect a phone call in a few milliseconds. If it takes 2 seconds to hear the ring, the DCSG technology might reduce the connection time by a certain percentage. The voice quality is also going to be enhanced. Overall, the benefits are incremental.
- Uganda has many budding developers who are bolstered through your network especially mobile money. Will this technology impact digitization in any way?
Definitely. It will open us up to digitize more services. It will also us to be more bullish on mobile money to enrich services on the products and platforms. You know digitization boosts productivity and the economy through creating jobs and more business opportunities, especially for the youth. This will not only boost MTN but also the entire economy. This technology will allow MTN to expose its network assets in a very efficient way to allow people to innovate.
- Why is MTN deploying this infrastructure in the first?
At MTN, we strive to deliver the best services to our customers. This technology promises to advance the customer experience while also streamlining our operations. This technology will also facilitate MTN to shift from a communication service provider to a digital service provider. MTN digital services such as MTN’s Whatsapp version; Ayoba and mobile money among others require a lot of resources and a very stable and efficient transport network which we hope to achieve with DCSG.
- In 2020, MTN launched 5G in Uganda. Will this technology deliver 5G internet speed to Uganda?
We didn’t launch 5G yet, but we did a Proof of Concept (POC) with our partners to test the service but in the long run. This is a key foundation for 5G is about fast speed and low latency. The most important aspect of latency is the transport network and with this technology, we are going to achieve the lowest latency possible in Africa to transport data. This technology will allow us to run 5G which is predominantly for industrial use for example self-driving vehicles, telemedicine and etc.
Editor’s Note: Aviat will oversee the deployment of DCSG solution using Network Operating Software provided by ADVA, running on Edgecore Hardware. This solution in Uganda is a flagship development in accelerating connectivity in Africa.