Vodacom deploys commercial 5G mobile network in SA

Mobile operator Vodacom Group has switched on Africa’s first live 5G mobile network in three cities in South Africa, with further rollouts planned in other parts of the country.

According to a statement from the company, the additional spectrum assigned by South Africa’s telecoms regulator due to coronavirus pandemic has been used to fast track the launch of the 5G network.

The deployment of 5G will enable Vodacom to manage the 40% increase in mobile network traffic and the 250% increase in fixed traffic experienced during the five-week long coronavirus lockdown.

The lockdown has resulted in an increase in online activity, from video conferencing to streaming movies.

The three cities are Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, Vodacom said, adding the 5G network would support both mobile and fixed wireless services.

The Chief Executive of Vodacom, Shameel Joosub 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. This is largely due to the allocation of temporary spectrum by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) which has already mitigated the network congestion we have experienced since the start of the lockdown period.”

Fifth Generation (5G) spectrum is largely unassigned in South Africa. The regulator, ICASA, has said it will auction additional spectrum, including the highly sought after 5G spectrum, by the end of the year.

Vodacom hopes to develop its 5G rollout as more 5G enabled smartphones, Wi-Fi and fixed wireless access routers become available. The company is currently selling the LG V50 5G smartphone and Huawei 5G CPE PRO fixed wireless router.