South African mobile networks believe that 5G smartphones – which currently comprise premium and flagship devices – will decrease in price as 5G coverage increases.
The most affordable 5G smartphone in South Africa is the Huawei P40 Lite 5G, which costs R9,499.
However, prices can extend as high as R36,999 for the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G.
This makes 5G smartphones an unrealistic proposition for most South Africans.
5G spectrum to reduce prices
ICASA recently provided more details about the upcoming spectrum auction.
This auction will allow mobile networks to acquire valuable spectrum that will enable them to improve their 4G and 5G networks.
South African mobile networks explained that such network improvements will coincide with the decrease of 5G device prices as well as data prices in general.
Despite this, South African mobile networks say that 5G uptake has already shown positive signs – including satisfactory uptake levels and high data usage compared to older cellular technologies.
These mobile networks’ comments are expanded upon below.
Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy noted that Vodacom was the first operator to launch a mobile and fixed 5G service in South Africa.
He said that consumer uptake remains in line with the company’s internal expectations.
“The initial interest we have seen from customers has predominantly been in the fibre-like service which 5G offers, as an alternative to fixed wireless,” said Kennedy.
Kennedy said that it is testing the market and gradually growing its portfolio of premium and flagship 5G devices.
“As 5G coverage grows, we expect that 5G device prices will continue to decrease and customers will have a wider range to choose from.”
MTN senior manager for PR Leigh-Ann Chetty noted that there are different 5G pricing strategies around the world.
“With our 5G deployment, the propositions focused on delivering value through data volume-based offerings and also an unlimited offering,” explained Chetty.
She noted that the 5G device eco system is still young, and it is currently higher-end devices that support this new connectivity standard.
“As with previous networks and technologies such as 4G, MTN anticipates that the 5G devices will become more affordable as the eco system matures and global volumes increase,” said Chetty.
She also said that MTN believes it is critical to make data more affordable and lower the barrier of entry to high-speed Internet.
“From a network perspective, the quality of the data is also important and as mentioned we are modernising our network to be ready to support legacy and newer mobile technologies,” said added.
“There is a benefit to 3G and 4G customers as we grow the 5G eco system.”
MTN noted that some information regarding its 5G rollout – such as the number of 5G subscribers it has – is confidential due to competitive reasons.
Rain spokesperson Khaya Dlanga said that the mobile network cannot disclose the number of 5G subscribers it has because it is a private company.
It therefore only discloses limited information as part of African Rainbow Capital’s results presentations.
However, Dlanga noted that Rain’s 5G premium users consume significantly more data than its 4G subscribers.
On average, this figure is close to 5 times the data that is consumed by its 4G users.
“We expect our [5G] pricing to remain similar for the foreseeable future,” said Dlanga.