MTN to expand mobile OpenRAN network in Africa

South Africa’s mobile and broadband operator MTN Group has picked five partners to roll out an open radio access network (OpenRAN) in Africa to expand 4G and 5G services more quickly and cheaply.

A radio access network (RAN) connects individual devices to other parts of a network through radio connections.

MTN said it will launch OpenRAN by the end of 2021 with its partners, namely Voyage, India’s Tech Mahindra and U.S.-based firms Altiostar, Mavenir and Parallel Wireless.

In the past, network equipment from Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and other firms was largely proprietary, making it difficult to mix.

But U.S. government restrictions that have hit Huawei’s ability to source chips have sped the adoption of so-called OpenRAN technology, where any vendor can assemble industry-standard chips and software to create inter-operable networking gear.

“This is a real game-changer for mobile advancement in emerging markets,” stated, Amith Maharaj, MTN group’s head of network planning and design.

For mobile network operators, a radio access network makes up the bulk of capital and operating costs.

MTN said it would lessen power consumption and emissions by modernizing its radio access networks using OpenRAN, supporting its target to achieve net zero emissions by 2040.