5G is officially in the country, with the likes of Rain, MTN and Vodacom launching their respective networks for the broadband standard in select regions on South Africa. In terms of the mobile side of things, you’ll need a 5G-compatible smartphone, which a number of options launching of late.

For the home though, a piece of customer premise equipment (CPE) is needed. One of the company’s supplying said hardware is Huawei, with the firm having worked with all three of the aforementioned service providers in getting their 5G networks up and running.

When looking to setup 5G-enabled WiFi in the home, you’ll more than likely be purchasing the Huawei 5G CPE Pro 2. This is the latest iteration of CPE that the Chinese firm has brought into the country, and for those new to the hardware, Huawei recently shared a press release on what it has to offer.

Here’s what we were able to glean from the information provided.

Check your coverage

Firstly, for those unfamiliar with what CPEs do, they employ a combination of mobile routers and mobile WiFi, with it designed specially for use in areas where multiple users will be wanting connectivity, so ideally a household, office or conference area typically.

The CPE works as a conduit to convert the 4G or 5G signal you’re receiving in an area where coverage is provided, and making a WiFi environment possible.

Speaking of coverage, it is worthwhile checking the coverage maps that all 5G network service providers have made available online. This is vital as not all areas of the major South African cities are catered for at this stage.

In terms of what speeds are available, Huawei lists the theoretical download speeds at 3.6Gbps on 5G and 1.6Gbps on LTE. This is of course dependent on the carrier, your signal and the location of the CPE of course.

With more people working from home as a result of COVID-19 and the national lockdown, devices like the Huawei 5G CPE Pro 2 will likely prove vital, especially if your work is heavily reliant on high capacity connectivity.

There’s also the benefit of making entertainment more easily accessible, particularly for those that are watching content online or streaming on a daily basis. Whether this is a better solution than fibre, however, remains to be seen, as the value for money on 5G data packages we’ve seen to date are not necessarily there just yet.

The right environment

That said, Huawei does make the argument that those wanting a fixed line often have to wait three to four weeks to get one installed and up and running.

“From trucking, digging, cabling and installing (not to mention the high service costs), the process can be quite a lengthy one. On top of all that admin, the fact that we’re currently in a global pandemic also makes it a bit risky to let service staff come into your home to install the cable connection,” says Huawei.

That is indeed a valid point, so it may be a case of what and where you plan to make use of your CPE. If you plan to use it in a variety of environments, and not have it in a fixed location all the time, it may prove more worthwhile than dedicated fibre.

One final element worth noting about the Huawei 5G CPE Pro 2 is that it supports WiFi 6. This is significant not for the speed of WiFi, but rather its ability to handle device-dense environments. Added to this is support for dual-band setups – 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz.

So when can you get a Huawei 5G CPE Pro 2 and how much will it cost you? Rain already has access to the CPE as part of its “5G for Home” unlimited data package that costs roughly R699 per month.

The other networks with 5G are set to launch similar packages too. “Other carriers such as MTN and Vodacom will also soon be launching packages featuring the HUAWEI 5G CPE Pro 2,” the company concludes.

We have not put this new CPE through its paces, but as working from home has become the new normal, it is one product we’re eager to review.