MTN Group extended its support for open RAN systems, highlighting plans to modernise its sizeable multi-country footprint using the architecture with efforts set to be stepped-up this year.

The operator group has already been testing and using open RAN kit in rural areas to a limited scale.

In 2020 it signed-up with Parallel Wireless, Vanu and NuRAN Wireless with a target of deploying 5,000 sites. It currently has 1,100 commercial locations using “open source” technology across 11 countries.

MTN revealed it would use Altiostar, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, TechMahindra and Voyage for its wider rollout.

The company expects use of open RAN to allow it to modernise its networks in a cost efficient way as it rapidly expands 4G and 5G, while cutting power consumption and emissions. It hopes the use of the latest network technology will help it achieve a goal of net zero emissions by 2040.

Network planning and design executive Amith Maharaj said the “much-needed flexibility” delivered by open RAN justified the need to work with more suppliers.

“This means that MTN can now look at building a network that can meet cost and capacity requirements of specific markets, or even rapidly deploy 5G and/or 4G seamlessly with existing legacy services. This is a real game-changer for mobile advancement in emerging markets.”

MTN CTO Charles Molapisi added the operator was “alive to the potential of open interfaces”.

“There is a lot of value that dominant players bring to the business, but telecommunications today is as much about the stability of the network as it is about new services.”