Rain says that full commercial rollout is only planned for mid-2019 but that its 5G network is actually already live in Johannesburg at the moment.
1,000 5G sites in major cities in the next two years
Rain’s chief strategy officer, Brandon Leigh explained at the announcement in Barcelona:
“We have been live since November in a very small pocket but we now have commercial network availability in Johannesburg. But the device ecosystem hasn’t caught up to the pace of our rollout yet. Obviously you need to rollout the network before the devices, but if you had a handset or 5G device of some sort it would be working in Johannesburg right now. So hopefully by mid-year we will have coverage in the two major metropolitan areas, [Johannesburg and Cape Town], and to have a commercial launch to clients. Then following that quite rapidly rollout a 1000-site network which should cover initially the major metros in the country and later even more,”
In the first phase of the 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.
According to Forbes, Rain operates in all the major metropolitan areas with 3,000 towers, with plans to expand to over 5,000 in the next two years.
Expansion will provide “ultra-broadband” services to homes and enterprises.
“Our focus in the beginning, and the first use case which I think makes by far the most economic sense, is very fast wireless broadband, or fibre in the sky as we like to call it, to people’s homes and businesses. But in the future you are going to get a whole range of other devices from handsets to IOT devices etc.“
During a MWC keynote at the huge industry event in Barcelona CNBC anchor Kren Tso described Huawei as:
“arguably the most contentious company in the world right now“
Mobile phone 5G products will be only be released in September. No 5G smartphones exist in South Africa at present.
The network is based on Huawei’s 5G end-to-end product solutions: 5G-enabled applications in terms of industry video, remote driving, and smart manufacturing.
Rain’s and Huawei’s 5G network is utilizing the 3.6GHz spectrum, existing LTE network and allocated spectrum for 5G deployment.
Rain first demonstrated its 5G network in September 2018.
South Africa’s more established mobile operators, including Vodacom and MTN, are unable to launch 5G services until they get access to more spectrum from communications regulator Icasa.
“It is an important step to work with Rain in bringing the first 5G network construction to South Africa,” said Shi Jilin, Huawei’s president of cloud and networks.
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.
Rain CEO, Willem Roos: