Why Telkom will not yet invest in 5G – and when 5G will be available at Cell C, Vodacom, MTN, and Rain

Business Insider SA
(Instagram, @mtnza)
(Instagram, @mtnza)
  • Telkom says 5G will cost a lot more in South Africa than 4G – and it has no plans to launch the technology in South Africa.
  • 5G promises to be more reliable and up to be 20 times faster than 4G.
  • Rain, Vodacom, and MTN all plan to roll out 5G in South Africa in 2019, but are being delayed by available spectrum.
  • Visit Business Insider South Africa for more stories.

Telkom, the country’s fourth-largest mobile operator, believes 5G data connections for cellphones will cost considerably more than 4G – and it has no immediate plans to add the much-vaunted technology to its network.

5G is the latest iteration evolution of wireless data standards, and promises to be roughly 20 times faster than the current state-of-the-art 4G,  while also being more reliable.

The technology is still in its infancy, with Samsung one of the first manufactures to launch a 5G enabled device earlier this year.

Telkom says it has no business plan to launch 5G in South Africa, and no clear timelines when the technology will be available for consumers in SA.

It will, however, starting testing 5G locally later this year, Telkom tells Business Insider South Africa.

Also read: Rain could beat cellphone network giants Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom to 5G

Vodacom, MTN, and Rain (South Africa’s newest, data-only mobile operator) have all started testing 5G in South Africa already, while Cell C like Telkom said it also has no immediate plans for the release of 5G in South Africa.

Vodacom, which launched a commercial 5G service in Lesotho in 2018, and MTN both say they are ready to launch 5G locally in 2019, but don't have access to the necessary radio frequency spectrum yet.

Rain said it already has 5G sites in Gauteng, and initial rollout will start in Johannesburg and Cape Town within the next few months.

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) in October 2018 planned to release additional spectrum to the operator by April, but has made no announcements on the matter since.

Also read: Yes, SA data is more expensive than it needs to be, Vodacom says – and it is all government’s fault

Vodacom said there is a large amount of spectrum available, particularly in the 2.6 GHz and 3.5 GHz bands, which is currently not being used.

“To ensure that South Africa is not left behind in the 4th Industrial Revolution, Vodacom reiterates its call to license 5G spectrum in South Africa as soon as possible, as this spectrum is not subject to any digital migration processes,” the operator told Business Insider South Africa.

Cell C said it expects 5G enabled devices will only be widely available in South Africa in 2020.

The infrastructure role out, delayed by spectrum bands, will require entirely new attenas and hardware on existing base stations, Cell C said.

It said a larger number of additional towers will also have to be built as 5G has a smaller footprint than 4G.

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