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MTN building private 5G networks for mines and ports

MTN is building private 5G networks for 14 companies in the mining and ports sectors in South Africa, reports the Sunday Times.

These networks will provide the firms with guaranteed coverage and capacity for their operations.

MTN South Africa CEO Charles Molapisi said private networks were an “exciting” area for the operator.

“We are far ahead of many in terms of private network on the 5G side. We see this as a huge growth area,” Molapisi stated.

In addition to providing data and voice services, Molapisi said the networks would support cloud computing, better cybersecurity, and unified communications.

“It’s connectivity first; then we put [on] layers of other services. Any form of communication will be deployed. Globally, companies are moving aggressively into this,” Molapisi explained.

Charles Molapisi, MTN SA CEO

5G’s high capacity and low-latency capabilities have long been punted for use in Internet-of-Things (IoT) applications in smart mines and factories.

One specific use-case is for accurate and safe remote controlling of excavating vehicles at mines in areas that are too dangerous for humans.

5G has also been used to support connectivity in ports worldwide.

These facilities leverage automation, machine learning, big data, augmented reality and IoT to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs.

Given the history of problems and shipping delays at Transnet’s port operations, such solutions might quickly translate into real-world benefits for South Africa’s economy.

Ericsson — a major player in 5G technology — recently said its customers at the ports Livorno and Rotterdam have reported that optimising vessel berthing with IoT led to a 20% average cost reduction per year which was equal to roughly 2.5 million Euros.

The company also provides network equipment to South African telecoms providers. It maintains that 5G holds great potential for the local manufacturing, mining, and shipping industries.

“With manufacturing making up close to 12% of South Africa’s GDP, there’s a solid case to make regarding the value of innovation,” Ericsson stated.

Illustration of a worker using connected augmented reality in a vehicle manufacturing plant

MTN’s public 5G network in South Africa has also seen impressive growth since first rolling out in June 2020.

According to its latest interim financial results, the operator added 443 5G sites across South Africa by the end of June 2022, bringing its total footprint to 1,391 sites.

With that rollout, it covered 20% of the country’s population, a significant milestone considering its aim to have 25% of people within MTN 5G coverage by the end of 2022.

In addition to offering mobile 5G connectivity, it provides a range of uncapped and high-capacity fixed-5G offerings for less than R1,000 per month.

The company has attributed much of the progress to the additional capacity it acquired in the 3,500MHz band during Icasa’s high-demand frequency spectrum auction in March 2022.

It plans to acquire more spectrum during the second phase of Icasa’s auction, which is expected to occur once the digital TV migration has been completed.

There are now at least 38 cities and big towns where MTN has 5G available. These locations are shown in the table below.

Towns and metropolitans with MTN 5G coverage
City of Johannesburg

City of Cape Town



City of Tshwane

Nelson Mandela Bay


Buffalo City


City of Mbombela


The Msunduzi


King Sabata Dalindyebo

City of Matlosana





Mogale City

Ray Nkonyeni

Govan Mbeki



Steve Tshwete


JB Marks

Sol Plaatje


Enoch Mgijima









Now read: Rain plans to launch mobile 5G

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