Yesterday MTN unveiled its South African 5G network. The announcement comes after that of Vodacom, but it means that the two largest carriers in the country have 5G available to its customers – at a premium of course. While we are yet to compare the two in terms of network speed, we can take a look at the respective 5G coverage maps.

In particular we’re interested in what kinds of areas are covered within South Africa’s two major cities – Johannesburg and Cape Town – and as such will be be comparing the 5G coverage maps for each metropole.

At launch in early-May, Vodacom made its 5G network available in six areas or clusters, with 20 specific live sites, the majority of which were on the Highveld.

While it may have taken MTN longer to officially roll out, the 5G network it has made available exists within 100 sites across the country at the time of writing, with Johannesburg and Pretoria said to feature a large chunk of that.

Curiously though, looking at the MTN coverage map right, there does not appear to be any 5G shaded areas in view for Pretoria.

Johannesburg 

MTN’s 5G coverage map for Johannesburg, as of 1st July.
Vodacom’s 5G coverage map for Johannesburg and Pretoria, as of 1st July.

Looking at both coverage maps, it is interesting to note the areas that have been catered for by each carrier.

Naturally both companies have 5G coverage in and around where their major campuses are, but MTN has focused heavily in the Bryanston and Fourways areas. Vodacom on the other hand, has a bit more of a spread, but clearly stuck to areas that run along the N1 highway.

Cape Town

MTN’s 5G coverage map for Cape Town, as of 1st July.
Vodacom’s 5G coverage map for Cape Town, as of 1st July.

The 5G coverage maps for Cape Town for each carrier are equally interesting as the ones for Johannesburg, although a but less expansive.

There seems to be a far greater focus on condensing coverage to one specific area, with MTN focusing on Bloubergstrand and Vodacom looking to Century City and its neighbouring suburb. The latter also sticks quite closely to the N1, so there may be a tactic as far as how Vodacom wants to rollout coverage.

Either way, as of right now, if you’re a Cape Town citizen, 5G coverage will be hard to come by, unless you’re lucky enough to live in the right areas.

Much more needed

As we uncovered in our testing of Vodacom’s 5G a couple of months ago, the big issue with 5G availability in the country is not speed, it’s coverage. In its current state, 5G does not feel far reaching enough, and until the necessary spectrum is made available to allow networks to roll out in full, it’s benefits cannot be experienced.

Penetration is key here, and unfortunately the networks can only do so much without the help of government.

For now then, it seems like quite a bit more needs to be done, before everyday South Africans can get excited about the enhanced connectivity.