South Africa’s third 5G service launch is imminent

South Africa’s third 5G service launch is imminent

Rain claimed a first in 2019. Vodacom, with a little help from temporary spectrum, followed in May this year. Now it’s the turn of South Africa’s number two mobile operator MTN to launch 5G.

MTN Group plans to launch its 5G commercial network in South Africa next week. A virtual launch event will herald the move on 30 June.

The turnaround seems to have been a quick one. When telecommunications equipment maker Ericsson announced last November that it had been selected by MTN South Africa to build its new 5G core mobile and radio network, it added that 5G commercialisation was planned between 2020 and 2022.

The initial focus of the rollout is expected to be on use cases and applications relevant in the South African context, defined as enhanced mobile broadband, fixed wireless access, and the Internet of Things. The original announcement added that MTN and Ericsson would be working together to identify and develop 5G use cases and applications that will contribute to the digital transformation of industry verticals.

Rain launched the country’s first commercial 5G network in partnership with China’s Huawei Technologies in 2019 in Johannesburg and Tshwane, offering subscribers unlimited data at speeds of up to 700Mbps for R1,000 per month. Since launch Rain has doubled its 5G coverage; this was achieved by adding more sites and providing a new 5G router to users. Rain is hoping to expand its 5G coverage to Cape Town and Durban before the end of this year.

Rain, however, is a fixed wireless access service. Vodacom’s launch to the mobile market covered three cities: Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town. It was able to fast track the launch by using temporary spectrum assigned by the South African telecommunications regulator ICASA.

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