MTN on path to unlocking 5GtoB opportunities in Africa

Brite Devassy, Senior Manager of Core Network Strategy at MTN Group, tells Light Reading about the opportunities and challenges for 5G private wireless networks on the African continent.

Brite Devassy, Senior Manager of Core Network Strategy at MTN Group, is confident of a brighter future for carriers – provided they can put platforms in place that can add value, particularly for enterprise customers and industry verticals.

“The trajectory of carriers’ revenue has declined in the last few years, but what we’re excited about is the monetization of 5G,” Devassy said. “As telcos now look to build connectivity for all, we especially want to unlock the true value of 5GtoB.”

Devassy was speaking to Light Reading at the recent 5G Core Summit. His focus, naturally enough, was on tapping growth opportunities in Africa. MTN, the largest mobile network operator on the continent, has a presence in 19 African markets.

“One key area we’re targeting is mining,” said Devassy. “There’s a lot of automation and analysis we can do to improve what happens in this sector.” A key pillar of the African economy, metal mining is nonetheless difficult and requires what Devassy calls “ultra-automation – the next level of automation” to improve efficiencies and profitability.

MTN is building 5G private wireless networks for various industry sectors, including ports and mining. Among the tools MTN offers mining companies, in collaboration with its ecosystem partners, are production supervision and production automation.

Moreover, points out Devassy, the modernization of production processes – in all industry sectors, not just mining – can help businesses reduce their carbon footprints and make progress towards achieving their ESG goals.

Devassy is clear about MTN’s role in 5GtoB, however, which is focused on connectivity -- its main strength – rather than edge apps.

“Operators have a responsibility to create an ecosystem for 5GtoB and empower developers to target enterprises,” he said. “Through being a Network-as-a-Service provider, and working in partnership with application providers, MTN can provide a robust network capable of supporting [different] SLA requirements.”

Network challenges

Devassy acknowledged that unlocking the full potential of 5GtoB will not be easy.

“There are lots of challenges for operators, especially from a network-build perspective,” he said. “We’re used to building a network for consumer markets, and now we require the same engineers to build an enterprise network that requires a differentiated experience. We’re going to have look at how we cater for both the consumer network as well as the enterprise network, using the same network infrastructure.”

Among the challenges, pointed out Devassy, is the management of different SLAs with, in all probability, different suppliers, and working out how the private 5G network interfaces with the public macro network when using the same spectrum.

“These new set of challenges are in addition to the day-to-day challenges that come with the evolution and advancement of different technologies,” he said.

“We need a self-optimized, zero touch network catering for both the enterprise and consumer,” he said. “To summarize, one of the biggest challenges we have is building one 5G network that handles the plethora of services we want to offer.”

This content is sponsored by Huawei.

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