Vodacom in discussions to launch 5G in South Africa

Vodacom is in discussions with Rain and Liquid Telecom to enable it to launch 5G products in South Africa when commercial 5G routers become available.

There is a strong demand for affordable fixed-broadband services in South Africa and 5G can play a big role to satisfy this demand.

Vodacom wants to offer South Africans affordable fixed-broadband products and faster mobile services, but it has a big challenge: a lack of spectrum.

Vodacom has already deployed standards-based 5G technology in South Africa, but can only launch 5G services locally if it gains access to 5G spectrum.

“We reiterate our call to license 5G spectrum in South Africa as soon as possible, as this spectrum is not subject to any digital migration processes,” Vodacom said.

Particularly, there is a large amount of spectrum in the 2.6GHz and 3.5GHz bands which is currently not being used and can be licensed to enable a meaningful 5G network rollout.

While it is waiting for 5G spectrum to be released, however, Vodacom is in discussions to enable it to launch 5G in South Africa.

Discussions with Rain and Liquid Telecom

There are two companies which have adequate spectrum and can help Vodacom realise its 5G ambitions: Liquid Telecom and Rain.

Rain is already rolling out a 5G network in Gauteng and Cape Town using its own sites, with plans to also procure new sites.

Rain CEO Willem Roos told MyBroadband that it will offer 5G services directly to consumers as well as through other distribution channels in the future.

While not mentioning Vodacom directly, Roos added that they “always remain open to discuss roaming opportunities”.

Liquid Telecom told MyBroadband that it continues to explore the best commercial models that will allow it to monetise its spectrum assets.

When asked whether it is in discussions with Vodacom regarding its 5G spectrum, the company said it “can’t comment specifically on any developments in that space”.

In response to questions regarding its 5G discussions with Rain and Liquid Telecom, Vodacom said it “will continue to explore other opportunities which may be of value to our customers”.

The company added that it remains hopeful the government will address the delay in the licensing of high-demand spectrum.

“This will help promote significant investment once there is certainty around securing access to much needed 4G and 5G spectrum of our own,” Vodacom said.

Vodacom’s 5G plans

Vodacom explained that 5G has a number of exciting possibilities which can be classified in three broad categories.

  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) – This will enable higher speeds and higher capacities for both mobile and fixed-wireless type applications.
  • Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (uRLLC) – This will enable applications which require mission critical control.
  • Massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC) – This will enable even more M2M devices to be connected to the network.

“In the South African context, the eMBB use case is one of the most relevant right now,” Vodacom said.

“5G will enable us to supplement our existing fibre footprint, and to offer a ‘while you wait substitute’ to fibre where we have not yet built out.”

Vodacom added that 5G can also be used as a substitute where fibre rollouts are not economical.

“Vodacom also intends using 5G for mobile services and the first 5G mobile devices have also been announced by a number of vendors,” it said.

Now read: South Africa’s networks are ready and waiting for 5G spectrum

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Vodacom in discussions to launch 5G in South Africa