According to the Swazi Observer, MTN Swaziland has launched its long-awaited 3G network, with company officials unveiling the UMTS service at a breakfast media event at Gigi’s Restaurant in Ezulwini. During the launch party, chief marketing officer Phillip Besiimire confirmed that the cellco has invested nearly SZL300 million (USD37.2 million) on the network, of which SZL37 million went on the long-denied 3G licence. Besiimire added that the company is also obliged to pay the Swaziland Post and Telecommunications Commission (SPTC) a percentage of its profits as part of the agreement. With regards to the network rollout, he commented: ‘We have connected over 100 sites on the network, and very soon we will be connecting the rest of the country’.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in January 2011 telecoms regulator SPTC declined to grant MTN Swaziland a 3G licence after ‘advanced’ negotiations; no explanation was forthcoming from the regulator at that time. MTN had previously carried out a month-long pilot project using four UMTS base stations in 2010. It was then granted a temporary 3G licence to cover several events including the Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa (COMESA) summit, held in August 2010. Despite the knock-back, its CEO Ambrose Dlamini remained optimistic that the cellco would be able to launch its 3G network sooner rather than later, commenting: ‘Swazi MTN is 3G ready, all we have to do is to press a button and make the service available to the MTN network users. We are ready, what is outstanding at the moment is to be granted the appropriate licence by the regulator. As soon as we get the licence, we advise that our customers will experience an immense improvement on the data speeds and all other benefits which will come with the 3G technology’.