MTN Joins Forces with Omnispace, Escalating the Satellite Connectivity Competition

Telecommunications tower

Omnispace, a satellite broadband service provider based in the US, has entered into a partnership with MTN Group to enhance the mobile operator’s terrestrial mobile network. Utilizing 3GPP standards, the collaboration aims to deliver services to both mobile consumers and enterprise IoT customers across MTN’s African markets. Ram Viswanathan, CEO of Omnispace, stated that this joint effort will facilitate access to secure, cost-effective, and widespread 5G mobile connectivity by seamlessly integrating satellite and terrestrial networks.

3GPP, a collaboration of multiple standards organizations, is tasked with creating connectivity standards for next-generation mobile networks that can seamlessly integrate traditional radio and other digital communication forms.

Per Omnispace, the agreement with MTN entails developing a standards-based mobile and IoT network tailored to serve MTN’s African markets. During this period, the companies will collaborate to test existing technologies, validating capabilities and exploring use cases utilizing Omnispace’s satellites.

The proliferation of partnerships between mobile operators and satellite broadband providers is rapidly increasing. Low-Earth orbit satellites are increasingly viewed as a cost-effective solution to address the challenge of universal coverage.

African mobile operators like MTN Group and its competitor Vodacom Group are particularly intrigued by this technology due to the vast geographical expanses, rendering infrastructure rollout to remote areas across the continent economically unfeasible.

Satellite service providers offer diverse solutions tailored to specific connectivity needs. For instance, Starlink, led by Elon Musk, primarily focuses on fixed-wireless internet access but is also exploring direct-to-mobile capabilities. Lynk Global, on the other hand, specializes in direct-to-mobile solutions and has partnered with Vodacom and MTN in Africa to test its technology. According to Dan Dooley, Lynk Global’s chief commercial officer, the company holds patents, has demonstrated effectiveness, and is commercially licensed for satellite-to-phone communication.

“In essence, our satellites function as space-based cell towers, enabling mobile network operators such as MTN to utilize their spectrum for connecting to our satellite. This facilitates the establishment of cell sites in areas lacking coverage.”

“Direct-to-mobile connectivity stands out as a promising satellite solution, yet it’s vital to recognize the significance of alternative options like enterprise data backhaul and high-capacity data transport.

Recent attacks on shipping vessels in the Red Sea, potentially affecting high-capacity undersea cables, underscore the role of satellite networks as flexible backhaul infrastructure, capable of filling gaps in terrestrial systems.

For mobile operators, partnering with satellite service providers offers expanded coverage and enhances service reliability, enabling them to serve a broader customer base.

“Our collaboration with Omnispace represents a strategic move towards ensuring consistent, dependable access to our network, bolstering the essential infrastructure supporting a digitally inclusive future,” stated Mazen Mroué, MTN Group’s chief technology and information officer.”




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