LTE in South Africa: just add spectrum

Summary: Vodacom and MTN say they are ready to roll out LTE networks in South Africa as soon as they get suitable spectrum from ICASA; ICASA is waiting for a spectrum policy directive from the minister of communications

Long Term Evolution (LTE) is the next step (after HSPA) in mobile wireless technologies to provide high speed data to consumers.

LTE is more spectral-efficient and faster than previous technologies (which means that it increases the capacity and speed of mobile data networks), has an all-IP flat network architecture and far lower latency than previous 3G standards.

With all these benefits it is hardly surprising that Vodacom and MTN are making sure that they are ready to roll out LTE Across their networks.

MTN SA CTO Kanagaratnam Lambotharan said the company is currently trialing LTE, using re-farmed 1,800MHz spectrum (2 x 10MHz) and existing software defined radio and base station equipment.

Lambotharan told MyBroadand that MTN is ready to roll out a South African LTE network if they get spectrum. LTE, explains Lambotharan, provides them with more capacity to serve the massive demand for data.

Vodacom started testing LTE more than a year ago, using their existing 3G 2,100MHz frequency band with 5MHz bandwidth.

“We’ve completed all the major test work we needed to do and now have just a handful of  sites live to try out equipment and new software releases,” said Vodacom.

Andries Delport
Andries Delport

Vodacom CTO Andries Delport said that they have been swapping radio equipment across their network to make sure they are ready to go live as soon as they get access to sufficient spectrum.

So with all the benefits which LTE can bring to broadband in South Africa, why is ICASA not handing out the valuable 2.6HGz spectrum – a resource which is currently laying idle in a regulatory process?

Speaking at the 2011 ISPA iWeek, Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) Councillor William Stucke said that they see the spectrum allocation process as very important, but that they are waiting for a spectrum policy directive from the Minister of Communicatons.

Stucke said that ICASA is engaging with the DoC, but said that they “won’t finalise any spectrum issue until we get a directive from the Minster of Communications.”

Related links

ICASA, DoC, it’s time to get cracking

LTE/pre-4G spectrum licensing plans from ICASA

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LTE in South Africa: just add spectrum