- Pan-African operator MTN is an Open RAN veteran
- It has been testing and trialling Open RAN for years and already has deployments
- Now it is to conduct live trials with Rakuten Symphony in three markets, including South Africa
BARCELONA – Mobile World Congress 2022 – Pan-African operator MTN is the latest service provider to engage with Rakuten Symphony to further its Open RAN efforts.
MTN is to work with Symphony, the open communications technology platform offshoot of Japanese operator Rakuten Mobile, to deploy an unspecified number of Open RAN-enabled 4G and 5G proof of concept (PoC) sites for live trials in South Africa, Nigeria, and Liberia.
“We are pleased to announce our partnership with Rakuten Symphony to deploy live 4G and 5G Open RAN trials across South Africa, Nigeria, and Liberia. In line with our belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life, we are committed to actively driving the rapid expansion of affordable 4G and 5G coverage across markets in Africa,” said Mazen Mroue, MTN Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer. “We have announced our support towards the deployment of Open RAN technology in 2021 to modernize our radio access network footprint. Through this partnership we hope to target innovation and cost efficiencies that will enable us to continue delivering an exceptional customer experience.”
The technology being used comes from Symphony’s RCP (Rakuten Communications Platform), which is used by Rakuten Mobile in Japan, combined with advanced automation tools.
The tools being provided by MTN include “cloud orchestration, Zero-Touch Provisioning (ZTP) and automation of radio site commissioning and network integration,” notes Symphony.
Accenture and Tech Mahindra will work with MTN and Symphony in all three countries.
MTN isn’t new to the Open RAN game: It has been exploring the potential of the disaggregated radio access network architecture since 2019 and said in mid-2021 that it had already deployed more than 1,100 Open RAN-enabled mobile sites across 11 countries. For those early deployments, MTN said it was working with partners Altiostar, Mavenir, Parallel Wireless, Tech Mahindra and Voyage.
This time around Tech Mahindra is still involved, while Altiostar could also play a role as it is owned by Rakuten following an acquisition last year. (See Rakuten acquires Altiostar at $1B+ valuation.)
The move gives Symphony yet another talking point in the mobile sector as MWC22 closes its doors for this year: The Symphony team has been busy this week, announcing the acquisition of Robin.io, partnerships with AT&T and Cisco, and the appointment of former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to its board.
- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV
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