MTN has launched its 5G network in South Africa but said it desperately requires more spectrum from ICASA to expand this service to more South Africans.
MTN SA CEO Godfrey Mtosa said that with the appropriate spectrum, MTN can roll out 5G to millions of South Africans within the next year.
“Although we are starting relatively small, our growth plans for our 5G ecosystem are huge,” said Motsa.
“[MTN SA CTIO Giovanni Chiarelli] told me to go to ICASA, get spectrum, and within 12 months he will cover at least 10 million people.”
The network is launching with 100 5G sites across a variety of cities in South Africa. These sites provide 5G connectivity across the following bands:
- 3,500MHz at 58 sites – Available in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Bloemfontein.
- 2,100MHz and 1,800MHz at 35 sites – Available in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.
- 700MHz at 5 sites – Available in Port Alfred, Hopetown, Virginia Queenstown, and Tsantsabane
- 28GHz at 3 sites – Available in Hatfield, Edenvale, and Durban.
As part of this rollout, MTN is re-farming some of its 4G spectrum to allow it to run 4G and 5G spectrum at the same time and in the same bands.
“This allows for easier migration of network technology from LTE to 5G,” the company said.
“It also allows us to deploy 5G using existing spectrum assets in the absence of additional high demand spectrum.”
MTN needs more spectrum
Speaking at the company’s virtual launch event, Motsa said that MTN is “extremely encouraged” by ICASA’s release of the temporary spectrum.
However, he urged ICASA to allocate permanent 5G spectrum to South African mobile networks as soon as possible.
“Our call to the regulator and government is to release permanent 4G and 5G spectrum as a matter of urgency so that we can fuel the digital revolution our nation needs to bridge the digital divide that currently deepens the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’,” said Motsa.
“We cannot do what we did with 4G – 10 years of nothingness,” said Motsa. “Spectrum is our oxygen – we need it to breathe.”
“What is at stake is the future of the country – South Africa will fall behind if we don’t release the spectrum now.”
MTN’s 5G offering is available in two variants – 5G home Wi-Fi and 5G mobile.
5G home Wi-Fi promises average speeds of 100Mbps and peak speeds of 500Mbps, while 5G mobile offers average speeds of 50Mbps and peak speeds of 500Mbps.
However, testing performed by celebrities as part of MTN’s virtual launch event resulted in even higher peak download speeds of up to 750Mbps.
MTN is offering various of 24-month and 36-month data plans priced between R499 and R1,599 per month.
This is in addition to unlimited data plans for R999 on a 36-month contract and R1,249 on a 24-month contract.