SPECIAL PROJECTS
 
21st October 2004.
Sky is the limit for new MTN facility

By Richard M. Kavuma
WEEKLY OBSERVER

On April 1 this year, MTN Uganda changed its pre-paid platform to enhance its leadership position in the market. According to Chief Technical Officer, Francis Kazinduki, the old platform had reached its capacity limitations.

The same platform had been used since the company’s arrival in the market six years ago, and could only support a maximum of 500,000 subscribers.

But with MTN Uganda achieving momentous growth, controlling 68-70 percent of the local mobile telephone market, that capacity had become inadequate. With a client base of more than 600,000 subscribers now, it was time for change.

Francis Kazinduki

Said Kazinduki of the old platform: “It couldn’t handle more customers, and at the same time it was limited in the functionalities it could handle.”

Planning for the new platform started three years ago. Engineers at MTN Tower reckon they have about the best technology on offer.

The new platform has an unlimited capacity. “This means that as our subscriber base grows, we are able to keep upgrading our system. It is rich in feature so we are able to offer a variety of services to our customers,” said Kazinduki.

It has a segmented market with high, middle and lower-end user offerings. The benefits of the new platform are already coming to the subscribers, with the increased product portfolio to include such offerings as YellowMax, YellowGo and PayGo.

Until this year, Kazinduki says, mobile customers were limited to a narrow range of products – Pay as you Go and Talk Time. With the new developments, subscribers have more choice.

“The feedback is very good since April. People are very happy. They pick what they want and we continue improving,” he said. MTN has also been making technologies easy to use for all its subscribers. Instead of the voice-based method of checking one’s credit, for instance, the technical team came up with a system where a customer keys in a few digits, a method that is more convenient and less error-prone.

Customers are also able to get airtime from their friends and relatives by using the simple Me2U innovation, without using SMS.

The uptake of new customers on the MTN network has been high, with gains of more than 150,000 customers since April 1.
The new facility also houses a new fixed line switch with an enhanced capacity. It is a converged system, supporting both prepaid mobile and fixed lines.

It has allowed an expanded product portfolio for fixed lines and already MTN fixed line customers are enjoying prepaid services, which were previously only available to the mobile subscribers.

On the focus of MTN Uganda’s technical team, Kazinduki spoke of a determination to consolidate the mobile telephone customers, who stand at more than 600,000.

“We are also vigorously consolidating our fixed-line and data solutions beyond the normal data-centric solutions through technologies to support high rate data transfer,” Kazinduki said.

Already, the company has invested in an extensive fibre network project that can support highgate data throughput. This will enhance MTN’s capacity for multimedia, videoconferencing and other solutions with high bandwidth requirements.

Even though the company is a clear market leader, it is not about to sit back. Kazinduki says MTN is very innovative and will be strengthening its push into data uptake.

rimkav@ugandaobserver.com