Vodacom launches commercial 5G services in South Africa

Vodacom launches commercial 5G services in South Africa

Consumers with devices capable of accessing the network can now subscribe to 5G services in South Africa through Vodacom.

The network, which supports both mobile and fixed-wireless access, was built by both Liquid Telecom, with Vodacom roaming on the infrastructure, and by Vodacom itself, thanks to recently assigned spectrum from communications regulator Icasa.

“Vodacom has switched on Africa’s first live 5G mobile network in three cities — Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town — with further roll-outs planned to other parts of the country,” the operator said on Monday.

“This network will support both mobile and fixed-wireless services and is currently available on 20 live 5G sites, 18 of which are in Gauteng and two in Cape Town,” it said.

Vodacom said it was able to fast-track the launch of 5G thanks to recently assigned temporary spectrum from Icasa for the duration of the national state of disaster related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The spectrum includes 50MHz in the 3.5GHz band, which was used to fast-track the network’s launch. TechCentral reported in December 2019 that Vodacom and Liquid Telecom had also concluded managed network services and national roaming agreements for a national 5G network, which forms part of the offering.

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‘More efficient’

“As a more efficient technology than its predecessors (such as 3G and 4G), the deployment of 5G will help Vodacom manage the 40% increase in mobile network traffic and the 250% increase in fixed traffic experienced during the Covid-19 lockdown,” the company said.

Vodacom announced in 2018 that it had begun modernising its network to prepare for the deployment of standards-based 5G technology in South Africa, subject to the allocation of spectrum.

The operator expects to expand its initial 5G roll-out as more smartphones, Wi-Fi and fixed-wireless routers become available. 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, said group CEO Shameel Joosub in a statement.

“Existing 4G tariffs for mobile and fixed will initially apply to Vodacom’s 5G service offering, with special 5G tariffs to be announced in due course,” he said.

Vodacom is currently offering the LG V50 5G smartphone and the Huawei 5G CPE Pro fixed-wireless router to customers wanting to access to the 5G network.

Customers can check if they are in a 5G coverage area on the Vodacom website.