MTN’s new technology to improve quality of service, pave way for 5G

MTN recently announced a partnership with several members of the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) which will see the telecom advance network automation using TIP’s Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway (DCSG).

We had an Interview with Ali Monzer, MTN Uganda chief technical information officer to explain what the new technology means for customers

 

  1. MTN recently announced rollout of a Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway (DCSG) technology, what is that?

To understand DCSG, you ought to know how telephone calls are made. Currently, we have towers across the country which house antennae. These towers emit radio frequencies in the air which are displayed on your phone as 2G, 3G and 4G. So, when making a call from Kampala to Mbarara, your phone will communicate to a tower in Kampala through the antennae which sends the session to a switch center in Kampala where it will be processed and sent to a tower in Mbarara where the phone call receiver is.

We have switches in few centralized positions in the country. The above process of making a call from one area to another is made possible through a transport network. The transport network carries phone calls, data, messages, mobile money, and digital services as well. DCSG is the transport network that moves all telecommunication traffic.

Telecommunication Transport network is very complex and expensive; involving a high capital investment for any telecommunication operator.

DCSG is an innovation in the transport network which will enable MTN run a much bigger automated end to end network at a lesser cost in a more efficient way.

We are the first in Africa to rollout this technology. It’s already in operation in Europe and North America and they are realizing the benefits. In Uganda, it will be rolled out in a phased manner.

  1. Please expound on how it will be rolled out?

We are currently at the design stage of this project, but it is important to note that the deployment of this technology is a journey because MTN has 2500+ sites.  However, we are going to start the roll out in selected sites. We chose this path of deployment in order to clearly ascertain the impact and benefit of the technology especially in improving the service for our customers.

  1. What should customers expect when deployment of this technology comes to life?

An improved service across all aspects including voice, data, SMS and all other digital services.  DCSG is going to optimise the transport network to streamline and improve our customer’s experience while using MTN services. For instance, it will allow us to optimize the latency. Latency refers to the time it takes for a signal to travel to its destination and back. This means that if you are in Karamoja, the new technology should allow you to connect a phone call in a few milliseconds. If it takes 2 seconds to hear the ring, the DCSG technology might reduce the connection time by a certain percentage. The voice quality is also going to be enhanced. Overall, the benefits are incremental.

 

  1. Uganda has many budding developers who are bolstered through the telecom network especially mobile money. Will this technology impact digitization in anyway?

Definitely. It will open us up to digitize more services. It will also us to be more bullish in mobile money to enrich services on the products and platforms. You know digitization boosts productivity and the economy through creating jobs and more business opportunities especially for the youth. This will not only boost MTN but also the entire economy. This technology will allow MTN expose its network assets in very efficient way to allow people to innovate.

  1. Why is MTN deploying this infrastructure?

At MTN, we strive to deliver the best services to our customers. This technology promises to advance the customer experience while also streamlining our operations. This technology will also facilitate MTN to shift from a communication service provider to a digital service provider. MTN digital services such as MTN’s Whatsapp version; Ayoba and mobile money among others require a lot of resources and a very stable and efficient transport network which we hope to achieve with DCSG.

  1. In 2020, MTN launched 5G in Uganda. Will this technology deliver 5G internet speed to Uganda?

We didn’t launch 5G yet, but we did a Proof of Concept (POC) with our partners to test the service but in the long run. This is a key foundation for 5G because it is about fast speed and low latency. The most important aspect of latency is the transport network and with this technology we are going to achieve the lowest latency possible in Africa to transport data. This technology will allow us to run 5G which is predominantly for industrial use for example self-driving vehicles, tele medicine and etc …

 

 

Blood Donation Drive Launched Amidst Calls to Save More Lives

The Annual Blood Drive, organized by the Rotary Club of Kampala Munyonyo, seeks to raise 1,500 pints of blood in Kampala.

Every year on June 14th, all countries globally celebrate World Blood Donor Day. The event serves to thank voluntary, unpaid blood donors for their life-saving gift of blood and also to raise awareness of the need for regular blood donations to ensure that all individuals and communities have access to affordable and timely supplies of safe and quality-assured blood and blood products, as an integral part of universal health coverage and a key component of effective health systems.

The need for safe blood is universal; safe blood is critical both for treatments and urgent interventions. It can help patients suffering from life-threatening conditions live longer and with a higher quality of life and supports complex medical and surgical procedures.

In Uganda, blood has a vital, essential, life-saving role in maternal and neonatal care without forgetting the importance in treating the wounded during emergencies such as accidents.

However, access to safe blood is still a privilege of the few. Currently, there is a massive shortage of blood at the blood banks in Uganda, in what has been described by officials as a dire situation that needs to be addressed. With Mothers dying because of shortage of blood and other patients needing emergency blood transfusion due to accidents and various illnesses, the need for blood is now more urgent than ever before.

That is why the Rotary Club of Kampala Munyonyo in conjunction with Grant Thornton, MTN Uganda, Coca-Cola, NBS TV, Capital FM, Capital One Group, and Uganda Breweries have come together to organize a blood donation drive in line with World Blood Donor Day that will see thousands of Ugandans donate blood to the the Mengo Hospital Rotary Blood Bank, Nakasero Blood Bank, and other blood banks in Uganda.

The blood donation drive, under the 2021 World Blood Donor Day campaign theme “Give Blood And Keep The World Beating”, will take place in Kampala from 8th June to 14th June 2021 at the following locations: Namirembe Road, Watoto Central (KPC), Bwaise Roundabout, Mukwano Arcade, Mengo Rotary Blood bank, and Nakasero Blood Bank.

Last year, health authorities stated that the supply of blood sharply declined since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as fewer people donated blood and schools remain closed. Students, especially those in secondary school, are the largest group of blood donors but schools have been closed for a long time amid efforts to curb the spread of the virus.

The consequences of low availability of blood are sometimes deadly hence the timeliness of this intervention. Speaking at the launch of the blood donation drive, a number of corporate representatives voiced their support for the initiative which they said was timely in spite of the restrictions taking place due to COVID-19:

“Many Ugandans struggle to find safe blood available because donations are low and equipment to test blood is scarce. This blood donation drive will assist to change this situation and we call upon all members of the public to take part in it”, Peter Kagwa (PK) – President of Rotary Club of Kampala Munyonyo in Uganda and Chief Mobilizer of the Annual Blood Donation Drive.

“An adequate supply of safe blood can only be assured through regular donations by voluntary blood donors. This is why we are joining this drive to thank blood donors and encourage more people to give blood freely in order to save lives”: Simon Kaheru – Director of Public Affairs and Communications at Coca-Cola Beverages Africa Uganda.

“World Blood Donor Day is an important day to thank blood donors, raise awareness about the global need for safe blood and communication how everyone can contribute. We urge Ugandans to join us to make access to safe blood a reality for everyone. Your involvement and support will ensure greater impact to boost blood available at the blood banks; giving blood is a humane, selfless, life-saving act to ensure availability of safe blood to those who need it, especially women in labour, the sick and accident victims”: Kin Kariisa – CEO of Next Media Services.

“Blood donations such as these are needed in Uganda to ensure individuals and communities have access to safe and quality-assured blood in both normal and emergency situations. We join this campaign to call on more Ugandans to become life-savers by volunteering to donate blood not only during this blood donation campaign but also regularly”: Paul Mwirigi Muriungi, Managing Director, Capital One Group.

The blood donation drive has also been supported by the Uganda Red Cross Society, Mengo Rotary Blood Bank, the Indian Association Of Uganda, and the Institute of Corporate Governance, and endorsed by The Uganda Blood Transfusion Services (UBTS), the National Blood Service responsible for all blood transfusion and safety activities for the entire country that operates within the framework of the National Health Policy (NHP) and the Health Sector Strategic Plan (HSSP).

MTN Revamps MyPakaPaka to give customers More Minutes To Talk

  • MTN has refreshed its MyPakaPaka offering to give customers more minutes of talk
  • The refresh comes at a time when more businesses are going online, and more people are only able to stay in touch remotely.
  • The improvements in the MyPakaPaka product are part of MTN’s drive to make communication more affordable for Ugandans.

 MTN Uganda has revamped its innovative voice bundles called MyPakaPaka to give customers even more minutes to talk.

MTN Uganda’s Chief Marketing Officer Somdev Sen said the revamp is part of the telecom company’s drive to offer affordability to customers while maintaining value.

“In these times of economic difficulty, MTN is committed to offering affordable voice solutions that fit the budget of every customer. We are delighted to announce improved offers that provide significantly more minutes for customers to keep in touch with their friends and loved ones,” he said.

The refreshed MyPakaPaka voice bundles come at a time when more people have to communicate with customers remotely and also when family and loved ones can mainly stay in touch on phone, making it very relevant in the lives of Ugandans at this time.

MyPakaPaka is a voice offering from MTN that was developed using customer’s usage behaviour and average spend to create various 24-hour bundles that are suited to each customer’s pocket. The bundles are for varied durations up 100 minutes a day depending on a customer’s usage pattern.

“MyPakaPaka represents one of the best calling options for the public who are using the MTN network. It offers customers great value, allowing them to connect day and night affordably and now with the revamp, there are even more minutes allowing for more talk,” Somdev said.

Key to note is that all MTN customers have a unique offer tailored to suit both their budget and talking needs. In addition to minutes, MyPakaPaka also comes with SMS bundles.

To activate and buy MyPakaPaka, the MTN customer is required to dial *160*1# and select their preferred bundle.

MTN awarded brand most admired for being helpful during the pandemic

MTN Uganda along with its parent company have been recognised as the most helpful brands during the pandemic.

The parent company came second after the World Health Organisation (WHO) whose core mandate is to support health causes around the world.

The survey conducted by Brand Africa 100 covered over 80% of the African continent in a bid to determine Africa’s Best brands 2021.

From the survey, MTN stood out for the support rendered during these challenging times.

In this unprecedented time chock-full of uncertainty, MTN did not waiver when it took the decision to immerse all its efforts in assisting governments around Africa to combat the coronavirus.

At group level, MTN worked with host nations to support the Africa COVID Communications and Information Platform and launched the #WearItForMe mask campaign. The month-long campaign which drove a powerful message throughout the group’s subsidiaries sought to encourage people to wear their masks.

Through its subsidiaries, MTN also dedicated support through numerous initiatives and stakeholders through Y’ello hope, the MTN crisis response vehicle.

In a nearly half a billion shillings move, MTN Uganda which stood out in the East African region  supported National Water and Sewerage Corporation to promote the handwashing campaign to mitigate the spread of the virus while Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS)was supported to extend aid to impoverished communities.

 

URCS received Shs.297million for surveillance, screening, psychological support in the high risk areas and border points across the country.

Robert Kwesiga, Secretary General URCS congratulated MTN upon the recognition saying the award was well deserved as the telecom’s support was very pivotal during the pandemic.

“MTN was the the first partner to come in and support the Covid-19 response. When the country went into a lock down, many places were closed apart from markets and border points. MTN came in and supported us to implement and enforce SOPs in Kampala Markets. They donated 297,328,000/= towards the Uganda Red Cross to support disease prevention and control,” Kwesiga said

He also added; “MTN also gave up their media airtime in support of a campaign dubbed “Support RedCross” and this mobilised over Shs21m towards food packages for vulnerable families in Kampala.”

 

MTN also provided Shs.220million to NWSC to provide relief to the masses of people living in water stressed parts in and around Kampala.

According to Engineer Mahmood Lutaaya, the general manager Kampala at NWSC, MTN helped NWSC to install 21 water points in places where people did not have water which is an essential during the pandemic.

“These were the informal settlements or slum areas. We put some in Wakiso, Nansana, and Kyaliwajjala among others. We identified places were people didn’t have water. The public water points came with tanks to ensure sustainability,” he said.

 

Sen Somdev, MTN Uganda Chief Marketing Officer, received the award on behalf Wim Vanhelleputte, the company’s Chief Executive Officer.

“We would like to thank BrandAfrica for recognizing us and the efforts towards mitigating spread of the virus throughout the pandemic. As MTN, we are of the philosophy that a business is not about accumulating profits rather improving the lives of people we serve. Together with government and other partners, considerable effort has been invested to ensure people do not lose loved ones and livelihoods,” he said adding that MTN is committed to supporting government during this fight against covid-19 while also encouraging adherence to the standards of operations (SoPs).

MTN last year gave unwavering support to Ministry of health, the government mandated body in charge of ensuring public health while mitigating the spread of the virus.

When resources were scanty in the midst of growing need for logistics and movement of members of the COVID-19 Task Force, MTN donated three brand new Nissan Hard Body pick-ups to the Office of the Prime Minister.

Open communication lines

Cognizant of the power of communication in achieving success in social behavioral change, MTN also opened up various communication lines between government and the public in an effort to preach the gospel of washing hands with soap and water.

MTN Uganda allocated media space worth shs316million to the ministry of Health to run the much needed COVID19 communication across different media.

In addition, a fully equipped call center to facilitate receiving and disseminating of educative information on behalf of ministry of health was set up at the MTN Head offices.

Furthermore, the telecom giant zero-rated the Ministry of health website to enable people get timely information without the need for data.

As it had done for ministry of health, MTN zero rated websites belonging to education institutions such as universities and institutions of higher learning such as Makerere University among others to allow students continue learning as well as access quick and constant dissemination of information on medical related concerns.

Reduced mobile money rates

MTN support also stretched out beyond government to the public. During lockdown when movement was limited, exchange of money turned electronic especially through mobile money as people could not move from one place to another freely.

Aware of the pressing economic situation occasioned by the virus, MTN cut mobile money transaction rates to enable people send and receive money at affordable rates.

In the same spirit, the telecom created subsidized internet bundles to allow people continue working from home without feeling the economic pinch.

It is because of such initiatives and more that MTN also scooped the award for the most admired brand from Brand Africa and most valuable and strongest South African brand for the 10th year running from Brand Finance.