MTN and Huawei have successfully launched Africa’s first 5G field trial in Hatfield, Pretoria today achieving download speeds of 520Mbps.

We’ve seen 5G trials before, once with Huawei and MTN and once earlier this year with MTN and Ericsson. Both of those trials took place indoors in very controlled environments but today’s trial was a little different.

The time there was a demonstration of a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access paired with a Huawei 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment in a real-world environment in Pretoria.

Further to that, MTN’s group chief technology and information systems officer Babak Fouladi said the trial provided MTN with valuable insight into how much work there is still left to do before 5G is switched on.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires,” Fouladi said in a press statement.

The exec went on to say that he is pleased with the foundation MTN has laid on the journey to 5G connectivity.

So why 5G? While LTE serves its purpose at the moment you might find your internet connection straining as you attempt to watch 4K video on your smartphone.

As we start to consume more high-res video, make use of augmented reality applications and other data intensive activities, LTE will not be enough. 5G brings with it additional capacity that allows services like VR to flow more smoothly.

Giovanni Chiarelli, chief technology and information officer at MTN SA explains: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use case”.

5G then has the potential to replace fixed-line connectivity such as fibre and in Africa where simply getting a cable to remote areas can be tricky, 5G might be the just the solution we need to bathe the continent in high-speed internet.

Brendyn Lotz writes news, reviews, and opinion pieces for Hypertext. His interests include SMEs, innovation on the African continent, cybersecurity, blockchain, games, geek culture and YouTube.