Vodacom taps Liquid Telecom for 5G network in South Africa

Vodacom Group is aiming to tap 5G network of rival Liquid Telecom in order to launch 5G mobile services in South Africa this year.
Vodacom Africa investmentAndries Daniel Jan Delport is the chief technology officer of Vodacom Group responsible for the 5G network strategy.

Liquid Telecom announced last month it was building a wholesale 5G network that would be available from early 2020, using its share of the 3.5 GHz spectrum required for 5G. It said it would allow other operators to roam on its network.

Liquid, which said its wholesale service would be available in major South African cities, did not say which technology supplier would be used to roll out its 5G network.

“We expect to be able to launch 5G services in South Africa this year. This is possible thanks to a recent roaming agreement with Liquid Telecom, as 5G spectrum is largely unassigned in South Africa,” Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub said.

Vodacom, which is majority owned by Britain’s Vodafone Group, said it would manage the 5G network on behalf of Liquid Telecom.

Vodacom signed a roaming and managed services agreement with Liquid Telecom. Liquid will roll out a 5G network which Vodacom will manage on behalf of Liquid. This agreement will allow Vodacom to offer customers a connectivity experience at a time when most 5G spectrum is yet to be assigned. 5G services are currently being trialled ahead of a commercial launch during this year.

Mobile operators in South Africa have complained about delays in allocating the 5G spectrum.

Vodacom and rival MTN have been running pilots for 5G technology using spectrum from the regulator.

Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) said it would outline in April the process and timing for licensing and assigning 5G spectrum, Reuters reported.

Rain, a mobile operator that only provides data services, has launched a fixed-wireless 5G network, offering a fast broadband connection to homes and businesses without requiring cables. The service is available in Johannesburg and Tshwane.

Vodacom, which has already launched a 5G mobile service in the small African nation of Lesotho, would be the first operator in South Africa to offer 5G to mobile users.

Vodacom Capex

Vodacom said it capital expenditure (Capex) was R2.4 billion during the December quarter of 2019. It made investment in its mobile network to both improve network quality and enhance IT systems in order to deliver best-in-class service and products to customers. Vodacom has 94.4 percent 4G population coverage.

Vodacom revenue

Vodacom on Wednesday posted third-quarter revenue of 19.99 billion rand or $1.76 billion, down 1.1 percent from a year earlier, partly due to a drop in the charge customers pay to call other networks. Vodacom added 9 percent more customers to 61.1 million users, in the three months to end December 2014.

Vodacom reported 6.6 percent rise in revenue for the three months to December, thanks in part to strong growth in data and revenues from its M-Pesa mobile money service.

The company’s growth in Tanzania would be hampered after Vodacom said in January it had to disconnect 1.7 million customers in the East African nation because of an issue related to government approved identification documents.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus outbreak could slow down China’s deployment of 5G networks, analysts warned, potentially denting the progress of one of President Xi Jinping’s national priorities, CNBC reported.

“The 5G base station installations in multiple cities in China may be impacted by the virus, in our view, which could be a drag on China’s 5G deployment,” Vinod Nair, senior partner at Delta Partners, said.