Home » Ralph Mupita-led MTN explores bold move with Elon Musk’s Starlink to strengthen regional growth

Ralph Mupita-led MTN explores bold move with Elon Musk’s Starlink to strengthen regional growth

MTN's strategic pivot: Navigating satellite services post-lease of 2,500 sites

by Omokolade Ajayi
Ralph Mupita

In a strategic move to expand its reach into underserved areas across Africa under the visionary leadership of Zimbabwean executive Ralph Mupita, MTN Group — the continent’s leading telecom service provider — is actively engaging with prominent satellite services providers, including Elon Musk’s Starlink. 

Confirming active engagements with SpaceX’s Starlink, the telecom group, led by Mupita, has initiated enterprise-grade trials in Rwanda and Nigeria. This marks a pivotal move towards integrating cutting-edge technology to deliver robust connectivity solutions in regions with limited infrastructure. Additionally, MTN is set to conduct direct-to-cell trials with Lynk Global in South Africa and Ghana, signaling a multifaceted approach to ensure seamless connectivity.

Beyond Starlink: MTN’s satellite exploration for African connectivity

Mazen Mroue, MTN Group’s CTO, expressed the company’s commitment to providing modern, connected lives for all Africans. He stated, “At MTN, we are inspired by our belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life.”

Beyond Starlink, MTN is exploring partnerships with other satellite service providers, with trials planned with AST SpaceMobile in Nigeria and South Sudan and discussions underway with Eutelsat OneWeb for a pilot in South Africa. 

Mroue acknowledges the importance of collaboration, recognizing that MTN cannot achieve its ambitious goals alone. The company has been actively narrowing coverage gaps in rural areas through collaborations with various rollout partners and deploying innovative technologies like OpenRAN.

MTN’s move to the skies, specifically exploring low earth orbit (LEO) satellite connectivity, aims to connect the unconnected, extend mobile connectivity to remote areas, and enhance overall network resilience. The endeavor aligns with the company’s broader mission of providing comprehensive digital solutions across its 19 markets.

Wealth and influence: Ralph Mupita’s rise among Southern Africa’s affluent CEOs

Under Mupita’s leadership, MTN Group has soared to new heights. The pan-African telecom giant now serves more than 289 million customers across 22 countries, offering a diverse portfolio of services beyond just voice and data. From fintech and digital solutions to enterprise, wholesale, and API offerings, MTN caters to the evolving needs of a continent on the move. 

Mupita’s success has translated into personal wealth as well. His minority 0.043-percent stake in MTN, now worth R88.6 million ($4.8 million), positions him among Southern Africa’s most affluent CEOs. It’s a testament to his vision and execution, guiding MTN through a period of expansion and solidifying its position as a leading force in Africa’s digital transformation.

MTN’s strategic pivot: Navigating satellite services post-lease of 2,500 sites

This strategic shift towards satellite services follows MTN’s recent decision to lease 2,500 sites, a move designed to diversify its tower portfolio and unlock substantial network cost efficiencies. The leasing agreement, set to expire in 2024 and 2025, saw American Tower Corporation (ATC) securing the deal after a rigorous and transparent procurement process.

Claims by IHS Holding — led by U.S.-Nigerian telecom tycoon Sam Darwish — regarding presenting enhanced commercial terms for the tower lease were denied by MTN. The group remains steadfast in its commitment to advancing connectivity across Africa, exploring innovative solutions to meet the evolving needs of its vast and diverse customer base.

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