Meeting with MTN– what an experience !


There are moments in life when you look back and say to yourself “wow – what just happened ?!?!”

I had one of those moments this week.

It all started with a little thing called Twitter where I “met” Bridget from MTN SA where I was given the opportunity to test MTN’s new LTE modem which offers lightning internet speed.

I then received an invitation to come through to MTN’s offices, which I gladly accepted, and having been there many times didn’t think too much about it. Until I received the meeting  invitation.

I am having a meeting with:Mr. Karel Pienaar – MTN’s MD, Mr. Kanagaratnam Lambotharan – MTN’s CTO and Bridget Bhengu – MTN’s PR & Communications guru !!!

eh… “what just happened ?!?!”


This was no ordinary meeting with MTN to see some new products this is THE meeting of all meetings which very few people get to have.

I “consoled” myself into thinking that these guys are insanely busy so this is probably a 10 minute meet and greet “hello howzit, thanks for being positive about MTN, here is coffee and biscuits, have a nice day” kind of meeting.

It was not.

After Dawn made the best cappuccino,  Karel, Lambo (as I have been told to call him), Bridget and I sat in the executive boardroom for over an hour discussing all things MTN and tech !

Karel being a serious techie at heart, had reminisced about installing the first PABX, selling port expenders and using 2400 baud modems back in the day of BBS (for those who dont know: that is Bulletin Boards that you dialled into pre-internet days). Clearly this is right up my alley as we started to discuss the first SMS gateway which is where I launched my first company SwiftSMS back in 2000.

We spoke about many topics such as MTN’s expansion into Africa, the “spectrum” issue and the lack of space to play, various technologies, tablets, handsets and devices.

I was asked various questions about MTN, the perception, the services & the network which we discussed openly.

So when I was asked what is “MTN doing wrong ?”, I explained about the the MTN flaw – Its not in MTN’s DNA to “blow their own horn” and its not in their DNA to tell the world just how good they are. They simply get on with the job, expand their network, enhance their services and win awards – all on the quiet side with little fanfare.

I learnt more in that hour about various MTN’s services and offering than I have in the past 10 years. For example:

  • Did you know that you can listen to your voicemail via the MTN website which is superb when you travel overseas ?
  • Did you know that MTN has a facility that their voicemail system can call you back when you are overseas and play the voice messages ?
  • Did you know that MTN won the coveted number one spot in the Ask Afrika Orange Index survey in the Telecommunication Provider and Internet Service Provider category (Ask Afrika Orange is a South African customer satisfaction index that is researched and compiled annually) ??? In other words, the people of South Africa voted for MTN as their number one choice !

I didn’t know that – look on their website, do you see a section called AWARDS ? Nope. There are a couple of lines on their Facebook profile which ends in the normal MTN humble way: “While a survey such as the Orange Index™ validates and recognises the work we are doing in the area of customer service, we still have some way to go

*sigh* – I rest my case…

So here I was having a casual friendly chat with the most highly respected and knowledgeable people in the industry who bear great responsibility on their shoulders and we were discussing Mobile & Technology like old friends over a “Dawn Capppuccino” !


I was then introduced to the rest of the team where I met Lesiba Langa and Maphamola Paul Lebelo who escorted me around MTN’s Network Operating Center – where EVERYTHING is monitored 24 hours a day.

They even have a screen showing the weather so they can put their teams on standby in case a storm knocks down any towers, they are already ready to deploy. Its all about being pro-active.

All I can say is that MTN has some amazing initiatives under way, most are confidential and are in some beta/ testing phase.

MTN has stuck to their core values and the DNA that makes up MTN. Some suppliers Ericson and Huawei which has allowed MTN to move fast and efficiently (and in stealth mode) deploying things like the LTE super fast internet which was deployed to over 100 towers in under 2 month ! catching everyone, including the competition, on the back foot.

I look forward to more out of MTN and hopefully will be able to bring to the public the various services that MTN currently has but we dont know about or are not publicised.

So watch this space for more in depth coverage of these systems that make MTN superb. If MTN will not “shout it from the rooftop” themselves, I will do it for them !! (he says with respect of course)

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