Connecting elegant youth through rhymes & laughter

At the peak of foreign influx in the entertainment scene of Eswatini, came a true depiction of local representation in the birth of yet another incredible showcase of Emaswati talent christened, ‘Rhymes and Laughter.’

Emanating from the need to realize the dream of identifying, developing, promoting and celebrating homegrown aptitude, Rhymes and Laughter avails an alternative to the otherwise saturated nightlife diligence of clubbing, seeking to appeal to a wider scope of elegant youthful and mature audiences.

This concept launched in 2015, is a collaborative initiative of local entertainment industry giants; Khulekani Mamba (aka Karly B), Thamsanqa Sibandze (aka KrTC of Hip Hop), Khonzumthetho Kunene (aka Anakhonza), and Larry Mhlanga.

“A major attribute to the instant success of the program has been our partnership without title sponsor, Swazi MTN, whose valued contribution has ensured the perpetual growth and sustainability of the program, thereby notably impacting the development, sustainability, showcase and celebration of local art, especially the comedy and hip-hop zone,” said the organizers of the Rhymes and Laughter.

The partnership has also helped to give the Rhymes and Laughter shows credibility, trust, consistency, and visibility.

“It is, therefore, our sincere wish to congratulate Swazi MTN for the remarkable 20 years of yellow connection. We further acknowledge the impeccable contribution in ensuring the development and sustainability of the local arts industry through partnerships with not just Rhymes and Laughter, but other arts-related platforms as well.”

MTN eSwatini through twenty years

When MTN Eswatini switched on its cellular network and connected Emaswati to a new mode of communication it was a revolution that, in the 20 years since, has irrevocably changed the way we live.

Even though experts had predicted that the business would never succeed, the government had decided that it was necessary as a means of attracting investment and to keep Eswatini at par with world trends at the time. Never was the impact and success of a business project so underestimated as that of Eswatini MTN.

Cellphone communication was a wonderful development and the last major investment to come to our shores. The Kingdom of Eswatini was the last country in the SADC region to switch on to the cellphone network.

1998

In 1998, the Minister responsible, Musa Nkambule then Minister for Tourism, Communication and Environment, as it then was, noted this unfortunate truth with regret and embarrassment and stated that government was doing everything it could to have cellphones ringing before the year was out.
Indeed, the excitement in the run up to the launch of the network was palpable.
However, there was a perception that a cellphone network would not make money for any investor in the country.

In his book, “Inspiration: The Person Journey Of A Prime Minister of Swaziland”, Dr Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini, who had been in office for two years when the network was launched writes: “What was quite extraordinary about the arrival of the cellphone was that a consultant, hired to draw up future user projections, estimated that the maximum number of future users would be 5 000 and that a monopoly was justified

2001

That was in 1998, yet by 2001 alone the number of users had increased to 55 000 and by 2016 was over 500 000. That consultant’s projection might qualify for an entry in the Guinness Book of (World) Records as the most inaccurate statistical projection of all time!”

Credit has to be given to Swazi MTN, on how it approached its market under such dire predictions by experts.

At its launch, Eswatini MTN appointed Noel Meier as its Chief Executive Officer. He hit the ground running, determined to find traction in the market for cellular phones and use the monopoly they had been given to its fullest.

During those early days, CEO Meier said he wanted to paint Eswatini yellow, with MTN’s colours. This bold initiative forced marketing executives in other areas of corporate Eswatini, particularly the banking sector, to go back to the drawing board and re-learn their functions.

t has often been said that when Swaziland Empowerment Limited (SEL) was launched, offering 19% of Eswatini MTN shares to the ordinary Joe Public through the Swaziland Stock Exchange (SSX), there was little public interest in investing there.

There are two reasons that could explain the slow public response, none of which have to do with a lack of interest. The first is that trading in the stock market was an unknown phenomenon to the ordinary citizen. It is still an unknown even today. Second, because the economy of Eswatini is so small, people did not then have the kind of cash at hand to trade in the stock market. Trading in the stock market, while an ideal way of empowering citizens, tends to be elitist because of high share prices.

When the announcement was made in 1997 that an empowerment scheme would take a stake in the network to avail shares to ordinary citizens in the cellular phone provider, some organisations in the country came together to form blocks that would buy those shares.

Even though projections were poor on the success of the business, it was public knowledge then that Eswatini MTN would be capitalized ata mouthwatering sum of E120 million and many individuals and groups wanted a cut of the action.

However, at a critical stakeholder meeting held at the George Hotel in Manzini on July 8 1998, these groups were told that the laws of the country did not allow for block buying and that shares were only available to individual investors.

In his book, the prime minister says the public eventually only took 5% of the shares and a balance of 14% was taken up by the Public Service Pension Fund (PSPF).

But as the PSPF has benefitted enormously from the investment the gains will at least filter down to the pensioners of the public service,” he writes.

One thing was clear though about the SEL shares; they were specifically earmarked for emaSwati and no foreigners would be allowed to buy them.

MTN’s bid to take over the market and turn the country yellow manifested itself long before cellphones started ringing in the country. As early as July 1998, soon after it had won the bid, but before the licence to operate had been issued, the company was already showing a keen interest in pouring money into football.

MTN remains unmatched in its Corporate Social Investment (CSI). Every year from 1 – 21 June MTN driven the 21 Days of Y’ello Care, where it goes around the country using time and money to improve the content of education and the structures where education is offered.

Perhaps most significantly is that in the past 20 years, one of the most unstated achievements of Eswatini MTN is that it has given many emaSwati opportunities at entrepreneurship through outsourcing of its products and services.

Many a good Swazi is now in economically independent than he or she would ever have been had it not come in and painted the country yellow in 1998.

The company has, in every sense, transformed the lives of emaSwati forever.

The network evolution from 2G to 5G

The mobile wireless industry started its technology creation, revolution and evolution in the early 1970s. From mid-1990’s the cellular communication industry witnessed explosive growth. This innovation consists of several generations and is still going on.

The mobile network is mainly divided into two parts, the Access Network where customers connect and the Core Network which processes calls. The mobile wireless Generation (G) generally refers to a change in network features, e.g. type of technology, speed, frequency, data capacity and services that can be supported.

Each generation has some new features and techniques which differentiate it from the previous one. The first generation (1G) mobile wireless communication network was analogue in nature and was used for voice calls only.

The second-generation (2G) was first deployed in Finland in December 1991. 2G or GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) is a digital technology and supports text messaging. MTN Eswatini was launched in 1998 during the 2G era.

Before the deployment of a mobile network in the kingdom of Eswatini, messages and letters as a form of communication were sent through the postal service and bus drivers. For a few who had access to telephones, it was callboxes and fixed telephones at home. Urgent messages were sent through the telegram which was priced at a premium.

At inception, MTN Eswatini identified Ericsson, the renowned equipment provider from Sweden to be their equipment supplier, with the main switch being located at SPTC HQ in Mbabane. The first MTN network supported voice calls and short message services (SMS).

The main components for the network at this stage were the Base Transceiver Station (BTS) or site and Base Station Controllers (BSC), both found in the Access part of the network, and the Main Switch Center (MSC) in the Core Network. After a few years, the network was upgraded to support data services.

The data speeds were very low at about 30-35kbps. Customers were able to access Internet services through their phones. The technology that allowed data series was the GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), also referred to as 2.5G.

Subsequent investment from the shareholders allowed MTN Eswatini offer improved data speed, with an upgrade of the 2G networks to support EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM evolution), the “2.75G”, offering speeds up to 135kbps. The core equipment that allows data on 2G is the SGSN (Serving GPRS Support Node) and GGSN (GGSN (Gateway GPRS Support Node).

GPRS and Edge services continue to exist in the market today, mainly used for PoS (Point of Sales). The new core architecture was split into the circuit switch (CS) for voice and the packet service (PS) for data calls.

Feature phones which supported voice, SMS and basic date were sold in the market as they could offer functions above the original such as Nokia 1610 and 5110 that were capable of voice and SMS.

The big jump in data speeds was introduced with the 3G services that were deployed in the Kingdom in 2011. This transformation was caused by technological advancement in the Access Network. 3G or UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) offered broadband, digitized voice, voice and multimedia at data speeds of 2Mbps or higher.

MTN Eswatini partnered with ZTE to roll out 3G, one of the big two suppliers from the Far East that were making inroads as global equipment suppliers.

The Node-B or site and Radio Network Controller (RNC) were introduced at this stage in the Access Network. The Node-B is as an enhanced site with more intelligence than the previous BTS.

Of importance in this technology were the smartphones which were capable of performing many functions of a computer, typically having a touchscreen, internet access and an operating system. Who could forget the blackberry and its services that were sought after by all the who is who’s?

A strategic decision was made by the MTN Eswatini Board of Directors and shareholders to revamp the network in 2016. Huawei emerged as the preferred vendor to modernize the entire network. 

In the new access network, an eNode-B was deployed, combining all the generations in one equipment. 4G or LTE (Long-term evolution) was also introduced as it has many advantages over the existing 2G/3G and it is expected to succeed in the not too distant future. Other key components of the  4G network in the Core are the IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) and the MME (Mobility Management Entity).

The IMS and MME are part of the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) which was deployed in the modernized network. The EPC, when combined with IMS and MME forms the EPS (evolved packet system), which is basically able to transport and work with packets of data. 4G is capable of offering, IP telephony, gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing, 3D television and today MTN Eswatini offers fixed services and many more exciting services.

The 4G data speeds range from 10 Mbps to 50 Mbps. The speeds are dependent on the network conditions and user devices. The user equipment remains critical at this stage, just like with 3G, as the customers will not enjoy the new services if their device is not 4G capable.

With the network components being more modular and virtual are we on the path to 5G? Whereas 4G can be considered as a game-changer in mobile communications, 5G will be the next step.

The base has been set with the 4G structure being IP flat structured. In 5G we will be talking about the Software Defined Network (SDN) and Network Virtualized Network (NFV). The big thing will be components becoming more modular and cloud-based. This is the road to the internet of things (IoT) where all will be connected.

A word from the CEO

A bright message and pledge from the CEO during the 2020 Customer Service Week:

MTN Eswatini’s CEO Mr Wandile Mtshali 

Our story

MTN Eswatini, a subsidiary of the MTN Group, is the Kingdom’s leading mobile telecommunications company.

Since its inception in 1998, MTN Eswatini has consistently lead the delivery of a bold, new Digital World to its customers through voice and data solutions to enable its customers to live a whole lot brighter.

MTN Eswatini is part of the MTN Group established in 1994, and is made up of 22 operations in Africa, Middle East and Europe.

MTN Eswatini is a Swati company and its shareholding structure stands as follows: SPTC–41%; MTN Group–30%; Esteemed Shareholder–10%; Eswatini Empowerment Limited–19%.

Since inception in 1998, MTN Eswatini has led the growth in the voice market to become the biggest mobile operator in Eswatini. MTN Eswatini is now pursuing new growth opportunities in the data and ICT space. To date, MTN Eswatini has over 950, 000 subscribers and the number continues to grow.

Mobile Money
As part of the process of leading delivery of a new bold digital world, MTN Eswatini launched Mobile Money in 2011. With more than half a million subscribers, Mobile Money, has become one of MTN Eswatini’s flagship products.

As Eswatini aspires to attain 75% financial inclusion by 2022, Mobile Money has contributed towards improving financial inclusion from 50% in 2011 (FinScope) by about 21 percent by the close of 2017.

Corporate Social Investment
MTN Eswatini believes that culture is a strategic asset enabling its success. The company’s culture is expressed through company values and behaviours. Additionally, MTN Eswatini demonstrates its culture through corporate social investment programs which cover education, health, enterprise development and national priorities. These programs are implemented through MTN Foundation.

MTN Foundation is the corporate social responsibility wing of MTN Eswatini. Since its launch by His Majesty King Mswati III in 2006, the Foundation has invested over E30 million in Eswatini. Last year, E3.5 million was invested into the 21 Days of Y’ello Care, MTN’s flagship corporate social investment initiative driven by MTN staff and partners.

Sponsorship
When it comes to sports and entertainment, MTN Eswatini supports different sporting codes where the company is often a title sponsor. Some of MTN Eswatini’s support is directed to MTN Premier League; MTN National Basket Ball League; MTN Khemani Cycling; MTN Monthly Masters; Kings Cup; MTN Bushfire; MTN iPraise; MTN SWAMA; MTN Rhymes & Laughter, MTN Pulse The Spotlight to mention but a few.

Economic contribution
MTN Eswatini has been a key partner for the country’s socio-economic development. While it adds value through its products and services, MTN Eswatini is committed to further contribute through good corporate governance, which has earned it commendation from various arms of government. 

MTN Eswatini is proud to note that its level of fiscal compliance, through various tax payments, has made a significant contribution to Eswatini`s Gross Domestic Product. MTN Eswatini remains determined to stimulate the market through innovative products, and creating business and employment opportunities.

Accolades
MTN Eswatini is decorated with numerous awards. Some of these include: Best Place to Work (2018); MTN Group President and CEO’s Top Accolade on 21 Days of Y’ello Care (2017); Investors In People (IIP) Platinum Accreditation by Investors in People International (2016); Excellence in Corporate Social Responsibility (2017); Best Call Centre and Customer Experience (2018), to mention but a few.