5G South Africa: False optimism fueled by industry hype?

President Cyril Ramaposa endorses rapid deployment of 5G in order to boost the economy, (1) but where are we at in South Africa?

5G is being trialed in Soweto with much fanfare: (2) and “rolled out in Lesotho”: (3)

However, Growth partnership company Frost & Sullivan presents a more sobering view: (4)

There is still a lot of work that needs to be done before even thinking of a 5G network.


-Completing digital migration

-Direction on the SA connect

-Licensing 4G spectrum

Naila Govan-Vassen, senior ICT industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan: “The delay in the spectrum auctioning is hampering development along with expensive data packages. The auction of 700MHz, 800MHz, and 2,600MHz is crucial for the rollout of an LTE network, but its stringent requirements are posing a challenge for the licensing process.”

Affordability is also factoring into slow growth of the subscriber base.

3G is expected to be the dominant technology over the next three to five years as it can support voice and data services for both feature and smartphone devices.

4G service will attract few users. It will be a niche market and is unlikely to be universally available. It will be predominantly available in affluent areas.

5G is still being defined by the The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and other communications stakeholders.

Devices, infrastructure, and equipment need to be developed.

Is there a demand for 5G in South Africa, or the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa?

Frost & Sullivan:  “The answer is yes, but most likely in niche markets with healthcare, education, agriculture and automotive benefiting the most.”

Govan-Vassen about 5G:  “South Africa and the rest of the Sub-Saharan region are still in the early development stages”.

Lehlohonolo Mokenela, ICT consultant at Frost & Sullivan:

“South Africa’s digital migration was targeted for June 2015, but is more likely to be done in 2019.

There are still concerns about the immediate relevance of 5G while a significant portion of the African market is still struggling with basic connectivity.

5G’s immediate future may, however, more readily lie in enterprise applications and fixed wireless internet in the residential sector and for SMEs.”

A word of caution perhaps from across the waters? (5)

‘5G – Thematic Research’, states that the hype around 5G has been building for so long now that it can be easy to forget that it will not become widely commercially available until 2019 at the earliest. Even then, uptake will be minimal – Just 0.09% of all mobile data traffic will be carried over 5G by the end of 2019, according to GlobalData’s Global Mobile Broadband Forecast.

Ed Thomas, Senior Analyst for Technology Thematic Research at GlobalData, commented: “Plenty of people, both inside and outside of the telecoms industry, are continuing to beat the drum for 5G, but the dissenting voices are growing in volume. They fear that the positioning of 5G as a revolutionary technology that will enable fundamental shifts in how we live and work, has served to raise expectations to such a level that the only possible outcome is disappointment.”

The last few years have seen significant investment in 5G, both by the telecoms sector and government agencies. However, articulating exactly what 5G will offer the consumer, beyond simply increased download speeds, remains a struggle. The most commonly cited use cases for 5G include enabling autonomous vehicles, the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart cities, but these all require more than just fast, responsive networks if they are to become pervasive.


  1. https://mybroadband.co.za/news/telecoms/274139-ramaphosa-told-telecommunications-minister-to-speed-up-4g-and-5g-spectrum.html
  2. https://mybroadband.co.za/news/telecoms/275439-comsols-5g-network-in-johannesburg-all-the-details.html


Comments about “Vodacom launches commercial 5G service – based in Lesotho”


Is 5G hype or reality for South Africa?

5. Race to 5G being overwhelmed by hype, says Global Data http://www.itp.net/617667-race-to-5g-being-overwhelmed-by-hype,-says-global-data

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