FILE PHOTO: Tim Hoettges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom AG walks on stage for the company's AGM in Bonn
FILE PHOTO: Timotheus Hoettges, CEO of Deutsche Telekom AG, walks on stage past a 5G technology setup during the company's annual shareholder meeting in Bonn, Germany March 28, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

South Africa’s largest mobile operator launched its 5G services in three cities on Monday. Vodacom confirmed that it had switched on its ‘Africa’s first live 5G mobile network’

As from Monday, customers who have 5G enabled devices and are within coverage, can access the new wireless data technology and experience faster speeds and better services. The next generation data network will support both mobile and fixed wireless services currently available on 20 live 5G sites in the Western Cape and in Gauteng, Vodacom said.

Further rollouts are set to take place in the country.

SA telecom regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), had in April assigned temporary radio frequency spectrum to operators to aid in communication during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Spectrum refers to radio frequencies on which data and information are carried. Mobile operators have for a long time lobbied for access to spectrum as they argue that this will help reduce the cost of mobile data in SA as the companies will have the ability to cover wider geographic areas using existing towers while carrying more data traffic.

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Vodacom recently got assigned spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band that was used to fast track the launch of 5G. This makes it the first operator to activate a temporary spectrum.

Last week, Altron Nexus affiliate Morai Solutions said it would make use of the temporary spectrum assigned to it in television white spaces (TV WS) to provide reliable and affordable data solutions to the rural communities during the Coronavirus crisis.

TV WS refers to ‘unused’ spectrum that is located in the 470Mhz-790Mhz band, within which television broadcasters tend to operate. Icasa allows wireless access devices to operate in the unoccupied channels provided they do not interfere with other licensed broadcasters.

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Due to the Covid-19 lockdown, the country has experienced up to 40 percent increase in mobile network traffic and 250 percent increase in fixed data traffic. Vodacom hopes that the deployment of the 5G network which is more efficient compared to 3G and 4G will help to manage the increase.

The current 5G network equipment that has been deployed also operates within the same frequency bands and are expected to be assigned permanently through an auction later in the year.

Vodacom and liquid telcom also concluded managed networks services and national roaming agreements for a national 5G network in December 2019.

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