MTN South Africa has announced plans to build a 3G network in the 900MHz band, TechCentral reports. The network is designed to better serve consumers in outlying areas; MTN expects significant growth in demand for broadband services outside of South Africa’s main cities over the next few years. By utilising the 900MHz bandwidth, MTN hopes to provide wider coverage with fewer base stations, reducing costs. Previously, South Africa’s two largest mobile network operators by subscribers, Vodacom and MTN, have both used the 2100MHz band for 3G services, resulting in a smaller footprint around cell towers. MTN South Africa chief technology officer Sameer Dave told TechCentral that the company plans to ‘re-farm’ a portion of its 900MHz spectrum – currently used for its 2G network – for rural 3G purposes. However, in urban areas, 900MHz will continue to be used exclusively for 2G.
MTN South Africa reports that it has concluded a detailed UMTS-900 test, involving 20 base stations in the Limpopo province, and has ascertained that the technology delivers a 30% increase in coverage compared to 3G delivered at 2.1GHz. MTN’s 3G network currently covers 48% of South Africa, but the imminent deployment is expected to expand coverage dramatically. The deployment will be done on a region-by-region basis, beginning in the communities closest to the cities, ‘rather than those that are completely in the hinterland’. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, as at end-June 2010 MTN South Africa reported 17.1 million subscribers, which equated to a 38% market share.