Vodacom Group announced the launch of a standards-based 5G service in Lesotho at the weekend.
The service uses the 3.5GHz spectrum to deliver fixed-wireless access broadband to two enterprise customers in Lesotho. This solution should – according to Vodacom – allow for faster deployment of broadband services with “fibre-like speeds” in the country.
“Vodacom prides itself on being a market leader and we are extremely pleased to be first to deliver 5G services to customers in Africa. What we’ve accomplished in Lesotho is an example of what can be achieved in Africa, should the requisite spectrum also be made available,” chief executive officer for the Vodacom Group, Shameel Joosub, said in a statement.
What made this service possible at all was the allocation of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band. This band is considered optimal for 5G deployment for a number of reasons but the headline factors are that it is not dependent on digital migration of television in SA and it can punch through walls and get indoors.
Vodacom has a temporary spectrum license here in South Africa which allowed it to test a 5G service locally. During testing the network was observed hitting speeds of 700Mbps with a latency of under 10ms on a 100MHz license in the 3.5GHz band.
Until Vodacom and other networks have access to that spectrum band locally we won’t be seeing speeds like that in actual use. Thankfully government is making moves in that department with Cabinet recently approving the Electronic Communications Amendment Bill for tabling in parliament and the approval of the CSIR’s study into spectrum requirements for a Wireless Open Access Network.
We still have a way to go before 5G can be rolled out but networks such as Vodacom are ready for that eventuality.
“Vodacom will be able to make 5G services available to its customers in South Africa once requisite spectrum is assigned. Global technological advancements are evolving at a rapid pace and South Africa can’t afford to be left behind, particularly when we look at some of the potential use cases for 5G to support critical sectors of our society such as healthcare and education,” concluded Joosub.