MTN South Africa plans to deploy 4G/LTE technology in the 900MHz band, sharing the relatively low-frequency spectrum with its 2G, 3G and Internet of things communications technologies.

The solution, called CloudAir 2.0, is being rolled out in partnership with Chinese telecommunications equipment provider Huawei.

CloudAir 2.0 will help MTN cope with the shortage of new spectrum to deploy 4G, with the company calling the deployment a “global first”. In other countries, where spectrum has been allocated by regulators, operators tend to deploy 4G networks in the 700MHz and 800MHz bands, but in South Africa these frequencies are still being used by analogue television broadcasters because of the delays in the country’s digital migration programme. Spectrum at 900MHz was first allocated to MTN and rival Vodacom in the mid-1990s to allow the companies to deploy 2G networks.

MTN South Africa and Huawei established a joint innovation programme in 2017 to research and trial new technologies. CloudAir 2.0 allows MTN “to make more efficient use of its limited 900MHz spectrum allocation, and achieve a 45% increase in LTE throughput within the band”, it said.

“Spectrum is an extremely precious asset. This new network optimisation technique improves spectral efficiency and gives MTN the ability to deploy LTE within the same 900MHz band alongside GSM, UMTS and narrowband-IoT, while significantly improving LTE coverage and user experience,” said MTN South Africa chief technology and information officer Giovanni Chiarelli in a statement.

Edward Deng, president of the wireless network product line at Huawei, said: the solution allows MTN to allocate and adjust spectrum resources according to changes in mobile traffic and avoid legacy radio access technologies from occupying prime spectrum.