Vodacom

Vodacom switches on Africa’s first 5G live services

06 May 2020 | Melanie Mingas

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Africa’s first live 5G network supporting both mobile and fixed wireless services has gone live in the South African cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town following a two-year network modernisation project.

Operated by Vodacom the network supports both mobile and fixed wireless services and is currently available on twenty live 5G sites – 18 in Gauteng and two in Cape Town – with further rollouts planned for other parts of the country.

The launch follows a two year network upgrade project by Vodacom, but the crossing of the final hurdle was actually propelled by the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw ICASA assign temporary spectrum to Vodacom for the duration of South Africa’s national state of disaster, including one 50 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band.

Further, this move makes Vodacom the first operator to activate temporary spectrum in South Africa.

Shameel Joosub, Vodacom Group CEO, said: “Vodacom’s 5G launch in South Africa comes at an important time as it will help us improve our network efficiency during the COVID-19 national state of disaster.

“During this difficult and unprecedented period, we are proud to offer world class network technology to South Africa, and all of its associated benefits, as we provide an essential service to keep the country connected. This is largely due to the allocation of temporary spectrum by ICASA which has already mitigated the network congestion we have experienced since the start of the lockdown period,” Joosub added.

Vodacom customers with 5G enabled devices, and within a 5G coverage area, are now able to access what Vodacom called “one of the fastest and most sophisticated network connections in Africa”, helping to manage the 40% increase in mobile network traffic and the 250% increase in fixed traffic witnessed during Covid-19 lockdowns.

The operator is offering two 5G enabled devices: the LG V50 5G smartphone and the Huawei 5G CPE PRO fixed wireless access network. The current 5G network equipment deployed also operates in the same frequency bands which are expected to be permanently assigned through an auction later in the year

Vodacom expects to expand its initial 5G rollout as more smartphones, Wifi and fixed wireless access routers become available

Managed network services and national roaming agreements for a national 5G network were concluded between Vodacom and Liquid Telecom in December 2019 and 5G tariffs will be announced “in due course”.