Vodacom Group on Monday switched on Africa’s first live 5G mobile network in three cities in South Africa.
Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town are the three cities, Vodacom said, adding the 5G network would support both mobile and fixed wireless services.
Vodacom’s 5G network will support mobile and fixed wireless services and is currently available on 20 live 5G sites, 18 of which are in Gauteng and 2 in Cape Town.
Vodacom recently received temporary additional spectrum from telecoms regulator the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) for the duration of a national state of disaster to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, which has been used to fast track its 5G launch.
Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub said in February the telecom operator expected to offer 5G mobile services in South Africa this year by using a network being built by another African operator, Liquid Telecom.
The deployment of 5G will help Vodacom manage the 40 percent increase in mobile network traffic and the 250 percent increase in fixed traffic experienced during the five-week long coronavirus lockdown.
The lockdown has resulted in a spike in online activity, from video conferencing to streaming movies.
“Vodacom’s 5G launch in South Africa comes at an important time as it will help us improve our network efficiency during the COVID-19 national state of disaster,” Shameel Joosub said.
ICASA has said it will auction additional spectrum, including the 5G spectrum, by the end of the year.
Vodacom expects to expand its 5G rollout as more 5G enabled smartphones, Wi-Fi and fixed wireless access routers become available.
The company is selling the LG V50 5G smartphone and Huawei 5G CPE PRO fixed wireless router.
Existing 4G tariffs for mobile and fixed will initially apply to Vodacom’s 5G service offering, with special 5G tariffs to be announced in due course.
Vodacom South Africa on 15 April 2020 said it will spend R500 million in two months to add network capacity and increase network resilience during the lockdown period.
“We are monitoring all traffic patterns daily and prioritising key network upgrades to add capacity and maintain the quality of services delivered to our customers where required,” Vodacom Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport said.
Vodacom added 484,000 customers in South Africa and 1.7 million in its international business during the December quarter of 2019.
Vodacom’s South Africa revenue and service revenue growth rates improved to 5.9 percent and 4.6 percent respectively, supported by increased data uptake. Vodacom’s International operations delivered service revenue growth of 9 percent, with strong growth in data and M-Pesa revenues.