Rain has highly-valuable 5G spectrum in the “golden band” which puts it at a big advantage over the likes of Vodacom and MTN when it comes to offering 5G to its customers.
Willem Roos, CEO of Rain, previously told MyBroadband that the mobile provider has big plans to grow its 5G network in South Africa.
“Our focus in 2020 will be to expand our 4G and 5G network coverage size,” said Roos.
He highlighted that Rain currently has 250 5G sites which already ‘pass’ 500,000 households – and it plans to expand this network significantly in 2020.
Meanwhile, Vodacom and MTN are yet to launch commercial 5G networks, owing to the fact that additional 5G spectrum is yet to be made available.
MyBroadband asked Vodacom and MTN when they expect to launch commercial 5G offerings in South Africa.
“Vodacom’s network in South Africa has been 5G ready since August 2018 and we expect to be in a position to commercially launch the technology in South Africa once we have access to the requisite spectrum,” Vodacom told MyBroadband.
It believes that South Africa needs to avail 5G spectrum as soon as possible so that the country does not fall behind globally.
“Vodacom believes it is important to launch 5G as early as possible to keep up to date with the rapid innovation and 5G deployments happening across the world.”
It added that it supports ICASA’s push to speed up the auctioning of 5G spectrum.
“Icasa’s proposal to assign 5G spectrum is welcomed as the advent of 5G will open up a world of possibilities when it comes to the creation of new industries and jobs,” said Vodacom.
To circumvent this spectrum problem, Vodacom recently signed a roaming and managed services agreement with Liquid Telecom which will allow it to launch 5G this year.
Through this agreement, Vodacom will roam on Liquid Telecom’s 5G network, which will allow the mobile operator to launch 5G services in South Africa.
“This agreement will allow Vodacom to offer customers a leading connectivity experience at a time when most 5G spectrum is yet to be assigned,” Vodacom said.
The mobile operator added that 5G services are currently being trialled ahead of a commercial launch during this year.
Jacqui O’Sullivan, executive for corporate affairs at MTN South Africa, said that MTN is also planning on launching its commercial 5G network this year.
However, it said that this is dependent on the finalisation of the ICASA spectrum auction process.
“The most significant challenge preventing MTN from commercially launching 5G services is the lack of appropriate 5G spectrum,” said O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan said that despite this, MTN continues to be a pioneer of 5G technology in South Africa.
“We have done this with the aim of ensuring that MTN is in an ideal position to begin supporting 5G use cases in a variety of environments and industries once the spectrum is made available,” said O’Sullivan.
“In the meantime, we will continue to build our network to be 5G ready in terms of architecture and capacity. The 5G device eco-system is also maturing and we have started to see devices come to the market with a smaller form factor.”