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MTN Plans Commercial 4G LTE Services From July

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MTN Nigeria is set to roll out its Fourth Generation Long Term Evolution (4GLTE) broadband services latest by July 2016 in selected cities, using the 800MHz frequency acquired from Visafone Ltd earlier this year.

MTN plans to have about 1,500 LTE collocated sites backhauled with fibre optics this year.

LEADERSHIP had last week exclusively reported that MTN Nigeria paid N47.5 billion to acquire Visafone’s assets, including its frequency and 2.1 million customers in order to improve the quality of MTN’s broadband services for its subscribers.

The chief executive officer, MTN, Mr Fedinand Moolman, confirmed, during MTN Group Ltd’s first quarter results analyst conference with investment firms recently held in Johannesburg, South Africa, that the main reason MTN acquired Visafone was to get access to the frequency which would allow it roll out LTE. He said that MTN has started the process to migrate all the Visafone subscribers onto its network so that they can clean up the frequency and start rolling out LTE.

“It delayed our capital expenditure (CAPEX) rollout during the first quarter a little bit because we needed to realign some of our CAPEX towards the LTE rollout. We started the migration of the subscribers and we hope to conclude that soon.  The plans are to have commercial LTE available towards the end of the second quarter, maybe  early  quarter three,  albeit  very  limited,  obviously  not  substantial,  and then start expanding  this  towards  quarter three,  quarter four and  first quarter of next year. It is obviously a comprehensive project,” Moolman said.

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The chief financial officer, MTN Group, Bret Goschen, said, “We have been engaging with our major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and vendors and ensuring that the CAPEX rollout continues as planned. We are very close to finalising short-term arrangements, bridge-type facilities with the vendors, and then longer term arrangements around the ECA-backed credit financing we should have in place by the mid year.”

The chief operating officer, MTN Group, Jyoti Desai, said that they have taken a very detailed analysis of MTN Nigeria’s data usage and where they should be rolling out the LTE network in the first place.

“We looked at the handset ecosystem and revenue  opportunity  and  have  identified  some  of  the  major cities,” he said.

According to him, MTN Nigeria’s LTE rollout will not impact its CAPEX as it already has space reservation in its joint tower company. He also stated that the LTE will be rolled out in existing base station sites.

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