Rain has unveiled its 5G network it is building in South Africa, with the aim to offer “ultra-broadband” services for home and small business users.
The company showcased the technology it will use to roll out 5G services in South Africa during an event at its Cape Town offices.
Rain demonstrated 5G New Radio network technology from Nokia and Huawei, which it will be deploying on top of its existing 4G network.
Head of engineering at Rain, Francois Olivier, said they plan to launch 5G services during Q1 2019. This will ensure that Rain is ready when 5G user equipment starts becoming more widely available – expected in Q2 2019.
Rain will roll out its 5G network on higher-frequency radio spectrum in the 3.6GHz band – one of its existing spectrum assignments from ICASA.
Even though this is much higher than the 1,800MHz and 2,100MHz used in 4G/LTE deployment in South Africa, as well as Rain’s own 2.6GHz band, Olivier said 5G New Radio allows them to offer the same coverage as their current 4G network.
This is thanks to the beam-forming technology in the 5G antennas they will deploy to their over 2,500 existing sites across South Africa. Rain has previously said it plans to expand its network to 5,000 towers in the next two years.
Layering the network
By layering the 5G network on top of its existing 4G network, Olivier said they will add around 12 gigabits per second of total bandwidth to each site.
This means that the capacity on Rain’s sites will go from up to 300Mbps to 12,300Mbps. This bandwidth is shared between all subscribers connected to a site.
Rain also showed off how the site deployed at their Cape Town offices performs.
Rain account manager Kgomotso Phooko showed that the virtual reality and augmented reality demos they had running in the office consumed around 42Mbps constantly.
Phooko also started a download of several large files, which had the network running at around 335Mbps.
Rain also recorded speed tests on its 5G network against a local server of over 700Mbps download and 70Mbps upload on 1 November.
One test reached a download speed of 747Mbps, with an upload speed of 72.1Mbps, and latency of 9 milliseconds.
He also revealed the 5G terminal device they are using for their demos. While this device is large, the routers that will ultimately be sold to customers will be much more compact.