Vodacom and MTN are still waiting on ICASA to assign radio frequency spectrum for 5G networks. Rain is the only company in South Africa to have launched its 5G commercial network ( February 2019). In the first phase of Rain’s 5G roll out, Rain has deployed 20 new base stations in Johannesburg and Cape Town, covering the main districts of the two cities. According to Rain, it will continue to roll out 5G infrastructure across its network with the aim of covering much of Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban in due course.
Now Vodacom is in discussions with Rain and Liquid Telecom to enable it to launch 5G products in South Africa when commercial 5G routers become available. According to Rain this will happen in September 2019 with Rain’s public 5G launch. While no 5G smartphones exist in South Africa at present, a slew of devices supporting the technology have been announced at the MWC 2019, including the Huawei Mate X, Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 5G, LG V50 ThinQ 5G and Samsung Galaxy S10 5G. Huawei has confirmed that the new MateX device will be coming to South Africa around the middle of 2019.
Liquid Telecom told MyBroadband that it continues to explore the best commercial models that will allow it to monetise its spectrum assets. When asked whether it is in discussions with Vodacom regarding its 5G spectrum, the company said it “can’t comment specifically on any developments in that space”.
Vodacom’s 5G plans
Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)
– This will enable higher speeds and higher capacities for both mobile and fixed-wireless type applications.
Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (uRLLC)
– This will enable applications which require mission critical control.
Massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC)
– This will enable even more M2M devices to be connected to the network.
Vodacom added that 5G can also be used as a substitute where fibre rollouts are not economical.
The question is – will there be sufficient investment available considering the state of Eskom? 5G needs a stable electric grid. Loadshedding has been stopped for now but there are no guarantees that these issue won’t resurface in the future.