As part of its strategy to innovate and close digital access gaps in SA utilising a network capex spend of R50-billion over five years, MTN has announced it has completed its part of the Coastal National Long Distance (NLD) cable project, known in the industry as NLD 5 and NLD 6.
The operator said the fibre route starts in Cape Town, and runs along the N2, moves through Gqeberha and East London and then on to Durban, covering 1,822kms.
“The project gives MTN an opportunity to provide additional and significant capacity between coastal cities and the rest of SA, ensuring the digital world is brought one step closer for many more people,” said Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology & Information Officer at MTN SA.
According to MTN SA the NLD 5/6 project commenced over three years ago, constructed by Liquid Telecoms (Liquid Intelligent Technologies), with MTN as the key anchor investor.
The operator added that aside from the benefits of fast, secure and stable connectivity, more capacity and high speeds, the NLD also forms part of the broader initiative by MTN to modernise its entire network in SA “to ensure it is future ready and geared for a fourth industrial revolution and 5G future.”
Chiarelli continued: “NLD 5/6 will enable us to deploy fibre-related connectivity to a wider SA population, particularly to previously disadvantaged rural and township communities. This is an addition to ACE (East Africa cable) and WACS (West Africa) cable projects that MTN Group is already driving as a key partner.
The company said that closing connectivity gaps remains a challenge across large swathes of sub-Saharan Africa and the completion of this initiative will help connect the unconnected.
“The NLD will therefore serve as a major enabler of closing gaps in network coverage while providing current and future required capacity; which has kept so many people, businesses and communities disconnected from the benefits of the modern, digital world,” MTN said.
There are now more than 3.8 billion mobile internet subscribers globally, representing 49% of the world’s population. However, according to GSMA’s 2020 Connected Society’s Mobile Connectivity survey, adoption has not been equitable, with mobile internet adoption standing at 26% in Sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2019.
This means the region accounts for almost half of the global population not covered by a mobile broadband network.
“The long-distance project has been complex, but it is thanks to the ongoing dedication and expertise of our teams of technicians and engineers that we are now able to truly light up the digital highway for all of South Africa,” said Chiarelli.
“The broad reach of this network means a user in an area like Mthatha, now has much-needed reliable high-speed connectivity. It will have a huge impact on their lives, notably for those entrepreneurs and businesses looking to harness the benefits of new services enabled through like cloud-based technologies, which were previously beyond their reach,” explained Chiarelli.
The high capacity transport network interconnects the east and west coast undersea cable systems, located In Mtunzini (EASSY), Dynefontein (ACE) and Yzerfontein (WACS), enabling seamless connectivity to the MTN network.
Latency (delays) across established paths have experienced up to 50% improvement with respect to previously provided links from third-party providers, MTN stated.