Vodacom recently launched its 5G mobile network in South Africa, offering local customers fixed broadband packages and smartphone contracts.
The mobile operator rolled out its 5G network to 20 sites across the country, and stated it has plans to expand the 5G network’s reach in 2021.
“Having a live network is a lot better for the engineers to develop key learnings on it,” Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub told MyBroadband.
He said Vodacom’s plan for 5G in 2020 is to learn from its current deployment and understand the process required to roll out the technology to a wider area.
This makes Rain and Vodacom the only two major mobile operators with consumer-facing 5G networks in South Africa.
Telkom and MTN have previously said they plan to roll out 5G networks in South Africa, however, and MyBroadband spoke to these networks about how their plans are progressing.
MTN said its network continues to be modernised in preparation for the launch of 5G in South Africa.
The company previously stated it plans to launch its commercial 5G network this year, but added that the timing of its launch would depend on the ICASA spectrum auction process.
“MTN has continued to pioneer the use of 5G technology within the country and continues to upgrade its network,” MTN said.
“We have proactively been modernising our radio network to be 5G ready… specifically the transmission and core networks that are an integral part of a 5G network. Our core network has been upgraded to be 3GPP Release 15 compliant as part of 5G.”
MTN added that it has been looking at ways to dynamically use its current spectrum to deliver both 4G and 5G connectivity.
“Our core network was upgraded in 2019 to be 3GPP Release 15 compliant as part of 5G trials we’ve been running,” MTN said.
“Since then we’ve been looking at the opportunity to dynamically use spectrum for 4G and 5G in the same mobile band.”
“We are looking forward to the launch of 5G technology on our network in the coming weeks,” MTN said.
Telkom told MyBroadband that the launch of a 5G network in South Africa was still on its roadmap.
“Telkom has been planning 5G introduction for a while and exploring commercial use cases beyond just high speed-broadband,” the network said.
“We invested in our next generation Packet-enabled Optical Transport Networks (POTN) and we see the rollout of GPON based fibre networks as part of a well-rounded, high-speed broadband ecosystem.”
The company said that more spectrum is needed to launch a 5G network in the most optimal manner, though.
It added that the current distribution of spectrum creates problems with competition which ICASA should resolve.
“It is our view that sufficient spectrum is needed to deploy an optimal 5G network,” Telkom said.
“For example, 100MHz of spectrum in the 3.5GHz [band] is needed per licensee.”
“The 3.5GHz band has only 200MHz in total (only 116 MHz available), which creates serious competition obstacles that ICASA must resolve,” the company said.