MTN South Africa: Winning the game

MTN South Africa handles a 40 percent increase in traffic during the world's largest soccer tournament.

During the 2010 tournament sports fans from around the globe descended on South Africa for one month. Hundreds of thousands of visitors came to watch live matches in nine cities. While they were there, they wanted to call and text friends, send pictures and videos of games and check the progress of teams via the web. It was imperative that the local network run by operator MTN was up to the job. Its reputation was at stake, especially considering it was an Official Sponsor of the tournament.

Working as a team

MTN called in Ericsson to provide Special Event Support and ensure it could offer the best quality service for all users. This involved network surveillance before the event and 24-hour monitoring of the most important nodes throughout the competition. Work began well in advance of the tournament and a number of signaling and radio expansion projects were completed over the past few years specifically to prepare the network for the anticipated peak in traffic. Sidney Arnold, General Manager Operations, MTN South Africa says: "It was crucial for us to provide the best possible service and to ensure we were sufficiently prepared prior to the event starting. Ericsson helped us a lot by monitoring the network and fixing any problems as quickly as possible. Their service meant we had the highest standards rolled out into the MTN network."

Tackling problems

A team of Ericsson engineers were set up in MTN's operations center where they had full visibility of the entire network on a large bank of screens. If any issues arose that caused concern they were able to diagnose the problem immediately, work out a solution, and avoid compromising connectivity. Tiaan Van Graan, Technical Coordinator for the event at Ericsson says: "We were there every step of the way with MTN and if problems popped up, Ericsson was there to solve them."

Massive traffic increase

Over the course of the competition, MTN experienced a massive 40 percent increase in network traffic. A quarter of a million unique roamers used its services 24 hours a day, during daytime and evening matches and throughout night-time celebrations. In all, users sent 1 Tb of data, including 10 million picture messages. A particular highlight was the closing ceremony. MTN handled 35 Gb in one afternoon with high availability of the packet network.

Tremendous achievement

The tournament was a tremendous success, for both South Africa and MTN. Despite the increase in traffic, there were no outages in the network and users benefited from high-speed voice and data availability. With Ericsson's support, MTN was able to maintain a stable, full-capacity operating network which helped to generate extra revenues. The operator also benefited from an enhanced reputation and opportunities to promote its brand. Sameer Dave, Chief Technology Officer, MTN South Africa reflects on the achievement: "We got a great amount of support from Ericsson. Key factors were the quality of the people they supplied and the passion of the team."

Great result

Thanks to the success of the data increase, MTN has decided to continue with an extensive rollout of HSDPA in 2011. Lessons learned during the tournament may also benefit future competitions. An operator from Brazil, the host nation for the 2014 event, was so impressed with the performance of MTN's network it has contacted Ericsson to discuss its strategy for the next big event.


Customer: MTN South Africa

Customer Objective

  • Handle increase in traffic
  • Maintain service quality
  • Boost reputation

Ericsson Solution

  • Special Event Support
  • Services delivery
  • Product Lifecycle Management
  • Product Development Units

Customer Benefits

  • No network outages
  • Enhanced reputation
  • Increased revenue

Customer profile

MTN South Africa offers cellular network access, communications services and business solutions. It has a 36 percent share of the market in the Rainbow Nation, a culturally diverse country with more than 47 million inhabitants. It is a highly competitive and rapidly changing market. New and emerging rivals include four broadband operators and two fixed-line companies. MTN South Africa is part of the MTN Group, a multinational operation with more than 130 million subscribers in 21 countries across Africa and the Middle East.

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