As part of its network expansion plans, MTN switched on its Base Transmission Station in South Sudan with the help of Vice President Wani Igga. It is one of 161 new sites ready to go on air, followed by modernization of 147 existing bases – a process the company said will make it the largest network during this year.
“Right now we have another 93 towers like this, spread across South Sudan, that are ready to be switched on,” Chief Executive Officer Philip Besiimire said. “We will expand further before the end of July,” he added. “Working together with ZTE, we will also modernize our existing network so that by the end of 2014, making us the biggest network in South Sudan.”
The project, switched on in the presence of the Chinese Ambassador Ma Qiang and Deputy Ambassador of South Africa – Stanley Makgohlo, several cabinet ministers and lawmakers, and the central bank deputy governor, marries the world’s third largest maker of telecoms equipment, ZTE, and Africa’s largest telecoms service provider, MTN. But it is not the size of the cash – more than $76 million that MTN is investing — that is drawing optimism from officials and citizens but the impact. “What matters now is not the location of Lobonok,” Telecommunications minister Rebecca Okwaci said. “What matters is that people, even in this small village, are able to communicate.”
The base station, equipped with 3G internet and solar energy as an alternate to a diesel engine in a country where most towers still rely on generators and batteries, has a 25km radius reach. “It’s very important that the surrounding of the capital city is provided with a network because as we talk now [villages] like Lokelele, which is currently experiencing child abduction, have no network,” said Juba Commissioner Stephen Wani.