MTC goes ICT

Digital communication has become the best of all forms of communiqué, especially in the 21st century and the giant mobile operator, Mobile Telecommunication Limited (MTC) is catching up with the world in this regard.

MTC is stepping up its dominance in the local telecommunications sector by connecting its customers to the future through its new ventures. Soon, it will no longer be a telecommunications company but an information and communications technology (ICT) company that will see the much anticipated Fourth Generation Long-Term Evolution (4G-LTE) spread its nets across Namibia.

Following the launch of its 3G network on 23 June 2010, MTC became the second country in Africa to introduce the 4G-LTE technology on 16 May last year after South Africa.

The new 4G technology can download and upload data at a speed almost ten times faster than the previous generation, 3G.

According to MTC, other distinctive advantages include much more user accommodation, coverage in rural areas and better in-door coverage.

Phase one of the 4G is [currently] only available on contract lines within eight sites in Windhoek. Some of those are Rocky Crest, the Central Business District (CBD), the Polytechnic of Namibia and Klein Windhoek.

Phase two will soon cover the whole of Windhoek while phase three will connect eight of the major towns across Namibia including Oshakati, Keetmanshoop and Swakopmund.

The company recently held a breakfast information breakfast session under the theme “Commicon” at a Windhoek hotel. The meeting was attended by stakeholders and the Minister of Information, Joel Kaapanda.

The managing director, Miguel Geraldes, highlighted MTC’s contribution to telecommunications in Namibia. He elaborated on how changing habits and needs have affected the sector in terms of digitalisation, mobility and virtualisation.

“More than 70% of businesses are now connected to the internet. That is the reality on the ground. Almost 50% of sales are done online. Multi-tasking is becoming a norm. What this means is that we are using more than one device at a time. I personally use a cell phone, a tablet and a laptop.

“In terms of mobility, everything is going mobile. People are using their cell phones for a number of reasons other than just making phone calls. People are watching TV, messaging and gaming, to name a few,” said Geraldes.

Geraldes also spoke about the importance of mobile clouding. Mobile cloud computing is the combination of cloud computing and mobile networks to provide mobile users, network operators, as well as cloud providers with benefits. Cloud computing exists when tasks and data are kept on the internet rather than on individual devices, to provide on-demand access.

With mobile clouding, applications are run on a remote server and then sent to the user. Because of the advanced improvement in mobile browsers, thanks to Apple, Google, Microsoft and Research in Motion, nearly every mobile internet device should have a suitable browser. This means developers can now have a much wider market. They can even bypass the restrictions created by mobile operating systems.

“Consumers are moving to the cloud. All our information is no longer our own information. Our information needs to be loaded in the clouds. Business is also moving to the cloud because businesses need to be flexible. Now as a result of having everything moving to the cloud, we are experimenting what we call a ‘data tsunami’ due to the huge traffic growth by consumers and enterprises. Twenty times more data will be transferred in five years’ time by consumers. Thus, we need to have a state-of-the-art network, high capacity transport network and processing,” explained Geraldes, further stating that MTC has acquired a new license that enables it to be more than just a mobile network operator.

MTC received a ‘natural license’ mid last year, which is different from the previous mobile license. The former does not restrict its services to mobile telecommunications.

With mobile cloud computing heavily leaning towards network congestion, MTC is bracing this catastrophe by looking at being the sole local ICT supplier.

This, according to chief technical officer, Jose Neto, will see a massive infrastructure and technology roll-out that will lower latency: “The network is developed for supporting the services we provide for our customers. When we look at the evolution of data, we can see that the voice usage (2.5x), SMS (3x) and data (3x) have all increased in terms of traffic. That is where the 4G will come in. The speed is ten times faster and there is lower latency. Meaning, there is less delay.

“There are ten times more users accommodated at the same base station compared to 3G. It gives better coverage in urban areas due to a lower frequency and it is possible to have rural areas covered with the same network that we currently have,” says Neto.

The 4G-LTE deployed in more than 1000km of optic fibre, complete with the latest technology from the West African Cable System (WACS) - an undersea cable in which MTC has partnered with a consortium of international investors - provides it with a competitive edge as far as ICT in Africa is concerned.

“We are building a backbone of transmission that will have an international bandwidth to capacitate fibre backbones and fibre back-hauls. MTC has invested over N$150m in the 14.500km-long submarine cable, WACS, which landed successfully in Swakopmund in February 2010.

“To roll out the fibre-optic cable in the country, another investment of over N$100m was made, which also allowed the introduction of the fourth generation (4G-LTE) technology in Windhoek and soon in other parts of the country. The four-fibre pair system is designed to support present and future internet, e-commerce and data, video and voice services in Africa; everything at a very high speed,” explains Neto.

MTC is so ecstatic about the future that its board of directors – and by extension, PT Portugal that has a 34% shareholding - has approved a N$1.3b investment budget on the new business direction for the next three years. The company currently has an annual turnover of N$1.6b. PF