Mobile & Telecoms

MTN launches wholesale fixed LTE – Supersonic first to go live

Calvin Collett

MTN South Africa is launching a wholesale fixed-LTE offering to Internet service providers, with its own ISP, Supersonic, the first to bring a retail product to market on the back of the offering.

The move comes just weeks after news emerged that MTN rival Cell C had pulled the plug on a similar wholesale offering, which it provided through partner Internet Solutions. Cell C said the arrangement was putting undue strain on its network and that it didn’t make commercial sense.

Supersonic, which until now has focused exclusively on providing fibre broadband packages, will offer three fixed-LTE packages at launch: a 60GB plan (with an additional 60GB of after-midnight data) for R399/month; a 100GB (plus 100GB) plan for R599/month; and a 150GB (plus 150GB) plan for R799/month. The month-to-month packages are Sim only, with an optional router costing R1 699 or R69/month for 24 months.

The company’s MD, Calvin Collett, said the decision to offer a wireless alternative to fibre makes sense as 60% of inquiries it receives are from prospective customers not in areas covered by fibre infrastructure.

Though the fixed-LTE plans are capped — unlike its fibre offerings — Collett believes the cap sizes are big enough for most users. “On our entire uncapped fibre base, the average utilisation is sitting at 89GB. You have outliers using terabytes, but you have guys using 10-20GB. If you take the middle-tier package of 100GB/100GB, and you change a bit of user behaviour, you basically have as good a speed as you’d have on fibre and enough data to do that.”

Undercuts

The entry-level fixed-LTE product also undercuts the cheapest fibre products by at least R200, Collett said. This means it will appeal to households that currently can’t afford R599/month (and up) for a fibre solution. A key focus will be on areas that don’t yet have fibre coverage, he added.

“If we use DStv Compact as a proxy at R399/month, there are seven million of those subscribers. Right now, we think R399 is a good place to go into, and then look to start bringing in R299 and R199 products,” Collett said.

The launch of fixed-LTE won’t affect Supersonic’s previously stated plan to roll out fibre in South Africa’s townships, he said. “Ultimately, we have to offer uncapped solutions to the mass market. We have to find a technology stack, whether its fibre or fibre-like wireless solutions, to get uncapped solutions into every home. As an initial entry into the home, fixed LTE is the right product for that. But longer term, we have to look at uncapped solutions into the home. For example, you don’t want to run your security off the back of a capped solution. LTE will never really be able to offer uncapped. The technology wasn’t built for that.”  — © 2019 NewsCentral Media

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