Mbabane: South African telecoms giant MTN has launched 5G across 100 sites in South Africa joining Vodacom in the race to expand its fifth generation technology.
The announcement was made via a YouTube live stream by MTN SA’s CEO, Godfrey Motsa, who called the 5G rollout “a beautiful day for South Africa and a significant step for MTN” on July 1, 2020. Speaking during the live stream Motsa said “from the MTN’s birthplace of South Africa, we are stepping up our digital revolution with the next generation of telecommunication technology, demonstrating to all South Africans that 5G is no longer just an idea, it is here, it works and it has the capacity to bring about exponential improvements to our economy, and to the lives of the people we serve,”
During the live stream it also emerged that MTN had previously tested 5G in South Africa as well as in other operations like Nigeria and Uganda but this is the first of its 21 operations in Africa and the Middle East to launch the next-generation technology commercially. The launch covers certain areas in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth, as well as some smaller towns. The MTN website promises that 5G speeds will be “10x faster than 4G and eventually become 100x faster” with ultra-low latency and increased reliability.
The introduction of 5G will enable next-generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, artificial intelligence, robotics, automated cars and the Internet of Things (IoT). According to the CEO, MTN’s 5G coverage map shows exactly where the 5G service will be available, including in Johannesburg across the areas of Bryanston and Honeydew, in Cape Town it is limited to Blouber and in Bloemfontein the Universities area.
MTN said that 58 sites across these three cities are delivering 5G on the 3.5GHz band for a “truly world-class 5G experience with both faster speeds and low latencies.” Small towns now covered by MTN 5G using the 700MHz band include Port Alfred, Hopetown, Virginia, Queenstown and Tsantsabane, while three sites have rolled out on 28GHz for coverage in Hatfield (Pretoria), Edenvale and Durban.
Motsa promised that if MTN was given the necessary spectrum by ICASA within 12 months, it would roll out a 5G network that would reach at least 10 million South Africans. He admitted the launch was only possible because of temporary spectrum assigned by ICASA in April. The regulator released some emergency spectrum in five different bands for the duration of South Africa’s national state of disaster, including the 5G “golden band” of 3.5GHz.
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