South Africa’s second largest cellular operator MTN is looking at forming a partnership with one of the country’s WiMAX wireless broadband licensees. MTN currently holds a limited test licence for WiMAX services and telecoms regulator Icasa has so far refused to convert this into a full concession, although MTN is hopeful that it will be granted some WiMAX spectrum; the company’s data manager, Brian Seligmann, told Business Day: ‘The door isn’t closed for WiMAX licences. We are working with Icasa on what licences and frequencies it is potentially willing to give us.’
In the meantime, however, MTN is seeking a partner from one of the four national WiMAX licensees – Telkom, Neotel, Sentech and iBurst – which would allow it to add WiMAX-based internet services to its portfolio. iBurst is unlikely to sign a deal with MTN now that rival cellco Vodacom holds 10% of its shares. ‘There are major challenges in South Africa with the allocation of broadband frequencies to make sure WiMAX can actually work. In some cases it’s not available because it’s being used for something else or it’s just not been released yet,’ Seligmann says.