Vodacom to launch 5G in S Africa in deal with Liquid Telecom

Vodacom to launch 5G in South Africa in wholesale deal with Liquid Telecom

04 February 2020 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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South African operator Vodacom is to launch 5G services in its home country this year, CEO Shameel Joosub said this morning.

Vodacom, which has already launched Africa’s first 5G services in Lesotho, will use wholesale spectrum from Liquid Telecom for its South African service, Joosub (pictured) added.

“Having been the first network to commercially launch 5G in Africa through Vodacom Lesotho, we expect to be able to launch 5G services in South Africa this year. This is possible thanks to a recent roaming agreement with Liquid Telecom, as 5G spectrum is largely unassigned in South Africa,” he said, reporting the group’s quarterly results.

In addition to South Africa and Lesotho, Vodacom also runs networks in Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique and Kenya. UK-based Vodafone group has a stake of 60.5% in Vodacom.

Zimbabwe-based Liquid Telecom announced last month that it plans to start a wholesale 5G network in South Africa, and this is what Vodacom will use for its launch. Liquid’s chairman Strive Masiyiwa said the service, on 3.5GHz spectrum, will be available in “all major cities”. Masiyiwa added: “For the first time, mobile network operators and ISPs will have open access to Liquid Telecom’s new 5G mobile network. The launch of the service also underscores Liquid Telecom’s vision to bring high-speed connectivity to everyone.”

Joosub reported this morning that it has increased service revenue by 9% in the latest quarter, ending 31 December 2019. “I am particularly pleased with the consistency in the performance of our international portfolio, which produced solid results on the back of strong demand for data and M-Pesa [mobile money] services, resulting in a 9% growth in service revenue,” he said. “Our operations outside South Africa now contribute over 40% to group service revenue.”

However Joosub warned of a setback in Tanzania, where “in January we had to disconnect 1.7 million customers” because the government demanded that the company register customers, despite a “lack of government approved identification documents”.

He added: “This will have an impact on our growth in Tanzania. However we expect to reconnect many of these customers over the short to medium term once biometrically registered.”

Vodacom reported revenue of 23.6 billion rand ($1.6 billion) in the quarter, 5.7% up on the same quarter of 2018.