Birth of a Nation, Birth of a Network

South Africa’s 1994 transition to democracy was rightfully hailed across the world as a political miracle. It not only marked the closure of a painful period in the country’s history but heralded the dawn of a new nation united in its diversity. The euphoria that characterised this important transition to multiparty democracy also breathed life into a new mobile network provider, MTN. Over the last 25 years MTN has touched the lives of millions of people across the African continent and beyond.

Creating connections

MTN kicked off operations against a backdrop of heightened expectations to provide communications services to people who had previously lacked access to fixed-line telephones. This was particularly the casein more isolated,rural areas.

With the introduction of MTN’s groundbreaking PayAsYouGo technology in the late 1990s, millions of people were suddenly able to connect with their loved ones and the outside world. The shift democratised the telecommunications landscape by making mobile telephony accessible to ordinary people for the first time, whereas just a few years prior it had been an expensive luxury preserved for the privileged few.

PayAsYouGo also gave city dwellers the opportunity to connect with their relatives in rural areas in real time, transforming their lives for the better.

With the rapid adoption of mobile telephony and the advent of smartphones, the foundations for MTN’s expansion into the rest of Africa, the Middle East and beyond were laid. This created a sense of urgency for the company to expand its network to cater for the burgeoning demand. The expansion required MTN to invest heavily in its network to bring new technologies like smartphones and internet-enabled devices to its customers.

At the time South Africa was still heavily reliant on expensive satellite-based technology to carry data traffic across continents, rendering communications services prohibitively expensive for the majority of people.

To lower the cost of communication and ensure speedier broadband connectivity, MTN joined multiple consortiums to digitally link South Africa and the rest of the continent to Europe, Asia and the rest of the world. Not only did this help facilitate more rapid economic growth across the continent, but it also paid handsome dividends when South Africa hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

As an official sponsor of the global football extravaganza, MTN played a critical role in ensuring that the tens of thousands of international visitors who descended upon the event were able to enjoy a seamless network experience, leaving them with a lasting positive impression of South Africa and the continent.

To continue the journey of getting behind customers’ passions and uniting the nation and the rest of the continent, MTN’s sponsorships have always been guided by its customers’ love of sport, music and community involvement.

As such the flagship sponsor of South Africa’s national rugby team, the Springboks, as well as the MTN8 Knockout football tournament, has contributed towards MTN winning the hearts and minds of millions of South African sporting fans. The wildly successful MTN Walk the Talk with 702 provides thousands of Johannesburg locals with the opportunity to connect with others and celebrate the diversity and vibrance of South Africa’s economic hub. MTN’s association with the spiritually uplifting sounds of Joyous Celebration have helped make the gospel ensemble synonymous with the brand.

Making an impact

In addition to being at the heart of their customers’ personal passions, MTN is also dedicated to being part of the solution in solving the country’s socio-economic challenges.

As a proudly South African company, MTN is passionate about making a difference in the communities it serves, driving economic growth and creating employment opportunities.

Mindful of the crucial role that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)play in South Africa, MTN has launched and supported multiple enterprise development initiatives over the years. These seek to equip SMEs with the necessary skills to ensure their long-term sustainability, including the sponsorship of one-year incubation programmes run in conjunction with the University of the Free State and Data Comb Development Hub; support of the National Gazelles programme with the Department of Small Business Development; and various entrepreneurship masterclasses run across major South African cities.

These initiatives have benefitted hundreds of entrepreneurs and upcoming businesses, making a meaningful impact in the country and reducing the negativity statistics around the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

To make a lasting difference in the communities it serves, MTN established the MTN SA Foundation in 2001, dedicated to community upliftment projects. Initiatives include an extensive school connectivity programme, in which MTN partners with Government to digitise curriculum content and provide state-of-the-art multimedia centres with free data connectivity to schools from economically marginalised communities. In addition, support is also provided to schools that cater to children with various disabilities.

Alongside the technology tools provided to school, the MTN SA Foundation assists with the provision of school shoes, stationary, backpacks and bicycles to learners that need to travel long distances to and from school.The Foundation also works with the Department of Health to provide ICT facilities and digitised curriculum content to nursing colleges across the country, thereby providing students with a more enriching educational experience.

While MTN has always believed that its operations should enhance and brighten lives through the delivery of a bold new digital world, it needs to ensure that it does so with minimal impact on the natural environment.
By harnessing renewable energy, MTN has provided sustainable power to its infrastructure and reduced its carbon footprint while simultaneously generating clean energy at several of its premises and operations.

MTN’s head office is powered by a 22MW methane gas tri-generation plant, the first of its kind in Africa. The group’s data centres in Johannesburg are powered by a cooling plant that generates 330KW of energy from 242 solar mirrors that track the movement of the sun.As a result of these initiatives, MTN is on track to being awarded Independent Power Producer (IPP) accreditation.

One of the most notable areas where MTN has played a role in sustainable power generation is the Northern Cape, where it has helped connect remote communities to the grid through wind and solar powered base stations.

Leading the industry

MTN’s rapid growth over the last quarter of a century has come off the back of heavy investment in advanced communications infrastructure enabling the provision of affordable and accessible telecommunications services for all.

MTN now offers voice, data and digital services to customers across the 21 countries in which it is licensed. The group also offers enterprise solutions to corporate and public-sector customers across all the markets in which it operates, making it one of the world’s most admired and valuable African brands.

The unveiling of the 11000th LTE base station in Idutywa in the Eastern Cape last year demonstrates MTN’s commitment to provide its customers with high performing networks, everywhere they go.

Over the past several quarters, MTN is proud to have been awarded the title of The Best Network according to independent international benchmarking companies.

As MTN looks forward to the next 25 years, it remains committed to using the power of its platforms to be an agent of positive change. As a truly multinational company with proudly South African roots, MTN is excited to continue working with like-minded partners to boost the transformative economic potential brought about by mobile connectivity.

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution upon us, MTN is ready to roll out a new generation of 5G networks that will help its clients along their personal and professional journeys, every step of the way. Only by working together can we ensure that tomorrow is better than yesterday.