Africa’s leading communications company, Vodacom Group has launched the first commercial 5G service in Africa. The service will be operational in Lesotho, making it the first African country to enjoy the service on the continent.

The communications giant revealed that the launch was fast-tracked due to the availability of the 3.5GHz spectrum band in Lesotho. However, the company also said it intends to replicate the same standards-based 5G network capabilities in South Africa once the required spectrum, which will make it efficient, is assigned by the country’s telecommunications agency.

The 5G (fifth generation) service in Lesotho will be on a commercial scale, leapfrogging the 4G LTE mobile network that is currently in use across the world. Being the first country to enjoy this developmental technology, Lesotho is expected to witness a quantum leap in its digital transformation and wide-ranging growth in all sectors.

The South African-based telecommunications giant said it is optimistic about the possibilities of integrating the service into more African countries should the necessary spectrum be made available.

“Vodacom prides itself on being a market leader and we are extremely pleased to be first to deliver 5G services to customers in Africa. What we’ve accomplished in Lesotho is an example of what can be achieved in Africa, should the requisite spectrum also be made available,” said Shameel Joosub, Vodacom Group Chief Executive Officer in a press release.

“Vodacom will be able to make 5G services available to its customers in South Africa once requisite spectrum is assigned. Global technological advancements are evolving at a rapid pace and South Africa can’t afford to be left behind, particularly when we look at some of the potential use cases for 5G to support critical sectors of our society such as health care and education,” he continued.

Vodacom’s recent launch is a landmark achievement in the telecommunications sphere. It also marks a shift from the conjectural view about the actualization of a commercial 5G service before 2020. It is important to note that there have been some trials and testing of a 5G service by one of Vodacom’s fierce rivals in South Africa, but the service is yet to be deployed months after the open field test. Many developed countries also struggle to deploy the service on a commercial scale after field tests and trials.

Presently, only 4 percent of Lesotho’s 2.2 million population have access to internet services in the Kingdom. However, this doesn’t necessarily rule it out as a good location for the first commercial 5G services in Africa ahead of South Africa which is stuck in its spectrum allocation that is now expected to be finalized in second quarter 2019.

Despite limited access to internet services and a dropping GDP, the launch of the 5G network in the country means an increase in productivity for businesses and government agencies in the Kingdom. The 5G network could also upstage the previous generation (2G, 3G, & 4G), and is expected to best the current 4G with more than 100 times internet speed.

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