Broadening everyone’s horizons
“Before Covid-19, MTN had already mapped out a plan to build a digital operator, moving our customers from a voice-centric world into a world of mobile data and digital services, including digital financial services,” says Motsa. “The pandemic is accelerating this move.”
There are hurdles, however. A major threat is the country’s lack of spectrum — the radio frequencies allocated to enable communication over the airwaves.
“Spectrum is our oxygen,” says Motsa. “We need it to breathe. Additional frequencies across both coverage and capacity bands will mean we can connect more people and offer faster speeds.”
During the pandemic, the government temporarily extended the frequency allocation to accommodate an unprecedented 68% growth in data traffic.
The government has extended the temporary spectrum, while also initiating its much-awaited auction.
“The imminent spectrum auction is a powerful demonstration of both our government and regulator’s commitment to help more people to access data. Access to spectrum reduces the need to build more base stations, towers and masts so, by reducing our costs, we can, in turn, drive down the cost to communicate,” Motsa says.
He says that there have been important strides made by the Independent Communications Authority of SA and, most notably, by the presidency’s commission on the fourth industrial revolution. “The commission’s insights are helping drive the move towards enhanced access to digital solutions,” he says.
Motsa believes such partnerships are vital for SA to bring more people into the digital age. “We’re making immense strides to ensure more people across the continent gain access to technology, key information and digital solutions, such as mobile banking. If governments, regulators and business work together, the obstacles can and will be overcome.
“Technology has emerged as a key enabler for communities, governments and businesses, but in SA and other developing nations, access to technology remains a major barrier to entry. Covid-19 has delivered a devastating blow to our already-limping economy, so it is imperative that every possible step is taken now to enhance access, and help our economy recover and grow to the benefit of all.”
* This article was paid for by MTN.