Superfast 5G is coming to SA! Not so fast, warns Vodacom
Africa’s first 5G service rolled out in Lesotho in August. SA has to wait until regulators make spectrum available
The rollout of fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks will probably not raise Vodacom’s capital expenditure requirements as the infrastructure will be deployed in selected areas, says the operator’s chief technology officer, Andries Delport.
Mobile operators globally are preparing to launch 5G, which promises to deliver ultra-fast download speeds with minimal delays in transmitting data – a prerequisite for technologies such as driverless cars, automated manufacturing and robot-assisted remote surgeries.
Vodacom, which spent R4bn on expanding and improving its SA network in the six months to end-September, launched Africa’s first 5G service in Lesotho in August. It said it will only be able to do the same in SA when regulators made the appropriate bands of spectrum available.
Delport said it is unlikely that there will be large-scale rollouts of 5G in SA in the near term, and that these networks will most likely be deployed in areas where there are specific use-cases. Among potential use-cases, Vodacom is considering using 5G to provide fixed-wireless connectivity services, given that access to fibre remains low in SA.
William Mzimba, head of Vodacom’s business unit, said 5G will facilitate the rollout of internet of things (IoT) applications. IoT refers to the network of devices and sensors connected to the internet.
Vodacom is running an IoT pilot project with the department of public works to better manage lifts in the state’s buildings, among other applications. It has also launched a pilot project with a farming consortium to track cattle and prevent livestock theft.
Vodacom has about four million IoT devices on its network, most of which are connected by SIM cards.
That pales in comparison to the world’s largest mobile operator by subscribers, China Mobile, which has about 470 million IoT connections.
Rain – the new data-only network operator backed by Patrice Motsepe, Paul Harris and Michael Jordaan – said this week it plans to launch 5G services in SA in the first quarter of 2019. Vodacom has a network roaming agreement with Rain.