South Africa’s second-largest mobile network operator MTN has announced that it is building private 5G networks for big companies in the mining and port industries. The networks will offer dedicated capacity and guaranteed coverage as the network ramps up its superfast 5G network rollout.

According to MTN SA CEO Charles Molapisi, the network has already signed 14 companies to the service which will give the clients the ability to control their own communication network. MTN also claims the service will improve internet speeds and security and provide uninterrupted connectivity for client companies.

MTN’s enterprise 5G network will also offer clients cloud computing, unified communication through integrated communication services, cybersecurity and machine-to-machine communications.

“This is an exciting area for us. We are far ahead of many in terms of private network[s] on the 5G side. We see this as a huge growth area,” Molapisi said.

MTN will be facing competition from Liquid Telecoms in the enterprise 5G network space. The company’s CEO Deon Geyser said that the company will use the spectrum it acquired in the March ICASA spectrum auction to build a 5G network aimed at enabling automation in industries such as manufacturing and mining.

At the auction, MTN was the second biggest spender after Vodacom but Molapisi said the spectrum they acquired will not be enough beyond 2025 and that they will be bidding for more spectrum in ICASA’s second auction, whose date has not been confirmed yet.

“If you look at the expected growth of data, we need to secure more [spectrum],” Molapisi said.

A push into being a MVNO service provider

According to Molapisi, MTN is also opening its network systems for other companies that do not own infrastructure but want to provide data and voice services. Examples in South Africa include FNB Connect and Mr Price Mobile.

These companies are referred to as mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and one of the spectrum licence conditions by ICASA is that network operators must have at least three MVNOs on their network.

“We are growing that part of the business quite significantly. We are building an MVNO platform as a service[…]we have a huge pipeline of MVNOs who want to come on board. We are open for business when it comes to MVNO. We will add far more than three,’ Molapisi stated.

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