Photograph — SABC News

Telecoms major, Vodacom is set to offer 5G mobile services in South Africa this year, CEO Shameel Joosub said after signing a roaming and managed services agreement with Liquid Telecoms, a wholesale network provider. 

“Having been the first network to commercially launch 5G in Africa through Vodacom Lesotho, we expect to be able to launch 5G services in South Africa this year,” Joosub said on Tuesday, January 4, 2020.

The agreement gives Vodacom permission to roam on Liquid Telecoms’ 5G network and comes after the latter publicly announced that it will launch the first fifth-generation (5G) wholesale roaming service in the country early January. 

This roaming service will include using a share of the 3.5 GHz spectrum which gives other mobile network operators access to its new network. “This network will enable wholesale operators to create innovative, ultra-fast, and scalable digital services for their customers,” Liquid Telecom chairman Strive Masiyiwa said.

Although data-only mobile operator, Rain launched the first commercial fixed-wireless 5G network in parts of Johannesburg and Tshwane in 2019, Vodacom will be the first incumbent operator to offer commercial 5G services across the country.

The use of commercial 5G service in South Africa incorporates so many advantages such as greater speed in the transmissions, lower latency, a significant number of connected devices, the possibility of implementing virtual networks (network slicing) and providing more adjusted connectivity to concrete needs as opposed to the 4G service. 

Similarly, 5G networks would help power a huge rise in Internet of Things (IoT) innovations, provide the infrastructure needed to carry huge amounts of data and allow for an even smarter connection within South Africa. Its features will not only aid personal use but also boost the tech sector which happens to have the second-largest number of tech hubs (80) in Africa. 

Also, businesses of all sizes in South Africa are set to thrive with the launch of Vodacom’s 5G service. According to a study from Qualcomm, by 2035, 5G could underpin up to $12.3 trillion (£9.3 trillion) worth of goods and services in industries such as retail, healthcare, education, transportation, and entertainment amongst others. This is because businesses will work more quickly and more efficiently, which in turn will save costs and increase revenue.

However, the question of if South Africa is ready to embrace the fifth-generation of network services remains. In a recent article, DW explained that only enterprises and public institutions, rather than consumers, will be the initial 5G customers. This is because the continent already has an oversupply of 4G fast mobile internet which average consumers are not patronizing because it is too expensive. 

The article also explained that African governments have not developed the regulations that would allow for a 5G rollout in the continent thereby limiting its reach. Nevertheless, with the new roaming Vodacom deal, it allows the telecoms company to launch full 5G services after receiving rights to transmit over specific frequencies by Liquid Telecoms which has an existing spectrum. 

Despite circumstances surrounding its potential launch, Vodacom has said it is committed to providing South Africans with the latest fifth-generation network as this high-speed broadband will enable different markets and sectors to thrive in the country.


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