Connecting the Unconnected – MTN’s and Africa’s mobile internet revolution

03 August 2023

Imagine a world where the digital divide no longer exists, where every individual has access to the internet regardless of their location. This is the world MTN envisions and is tirelessly working towards. Yet, in an age where internet access is almost synonymous with opportunity, the ITU/UNESCO ‘2022 State of Broadband Report’ paints a stark picture: less than a quarter of households in sub-Saharan Africa have access to the internet.

At the heart of MTN is the belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life. The vast number of people across our markets who remain disconnected from the mobile internet is not just a statistic; it represents countless dreams and potential waiting to be unlocked. This challenge and call to action strengthens our resolve and encourages us to remain focused on the task at hand, narrowing the digital divide.

World-class connectivity is more than a service; it’s a catalyst for inclusive growth,” says MTN Group Chief Technology and Information Officer Mazen Mroue. “As we journey towards a digital future, we want to ensure that no one is left behind. So, we are working hard to close the coverage gap in rural and remote areas; achieving this, and doing so quickly, would not be possible without the active collaboration of our partners.

In 2022, we took significant strides, overcoming some of the key barriers to mobile internet adoption. We expanded our broadband  coverage including 4G and 5G to include an additional  54 million people across our footprint.

Through substantial investments in site rollout, we increased our broadband network coverage to reach 87.8% of the 750 million people in our markets, a rise from 83% in 2021. This brought us a step closer to our objective of providing 95% broadband coverage by 2025. To ensure we stay on track, we’ve tied executive remuneration to our progress in achieving this and other ESG measures.

Accelerating rollout

In 2022, we rolled out 1 669 new rural sites, expanding our rural coverage to 30.8 million people, up from 23 million in 2021 and 8.5 million the year before. To expedite rollout, we worked in collaboration with nine specialist partners, embraced new commercial partnership models, and implemented OpenRAN technology.

“OpenRAN enables us to supplement or replace existing radio access network providers. An OpenRAN environment expands the ecosystem, lowers costs and accelerates innovation,” says Mroué. “To complement our rural terrestrial network, we are also investigating pilot projects for low-earth-orbit satellite connectivity,” he adds.

The motivation for all this work remains the delivery of MTN Group’s Ambition 2025, which is ‘Leading digital solutions for Africa’s progress.’

“We are already seeing rural communities reap the benefit of increased broadband coverage. They are increasingly accessing information, education and tools such as Mobile Money (MoMo),” says Mroué, adding that this supported the Group’s efforts to extend digital and financial inclusion across the continent.

MTN remains deeply committed to playing a transformative role in Africa’s mobile internet revolution. While the road ahead is filled with challenges, our resolve remains unshaken. We aim to connect the unconnected and unlock a world of endless possibilities.