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

Business Insider SA
Rain and Huawei are bringing 5G to South Africa.
  • Rain could be bringing ultra-fast internet 5G to South Africa by mid-2019.
  • Thanks to a partnership with Huawei they can leverage their existing licensed spectrum on 4G. 
  • This means it will get ahead of the competition who are still struggling to get spectrum allocation. 

Ultra-fast internet 5G will be coming to South Africa, before most of the world.   

Rain, South Africa’s mobile data-only network operator, announced in Barcelona, Spain, that it has launched the first 5G commercial network in South Africa in partnership with Huawei. 

It’s a move that will make South Africa one of the first countries in the world to launch 5G. 

5G is the "evolution" of 4G LTE, which is what currently lets us stream videos, music, browse the web and social media, and use data-intensive apps on our mobile devices. It promises to outstrip its predecessors with download speeds of up to 10 to 20 times faster than we have now

"The network will provide fibre-like speeds without the installation complexities, time delays and cost of laying fibre in under-serviced areas,” said Willem Roos, Rain Group CEO. 

South Africans in Johannesburg will be the first to use it. According to Roos, the network is already live and in the testing phase, with the aim of a mid-2019 commercial launch.

It's a tight race to be first.

Rain could beat cellphone network giants Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Telkom to the punch. Vodacom and other operators have been lobbying widely for the urgent release of radio frequency spectrum required for the next-generation mobile service in South Africa, but to little avail.

The 3.5GHz spectrum band has been described as the "killer band" for 5G. It is particularly useful for high-throughput data services because of the density of information that can be transmitted over it. It also penetrates walls well, making for good indoor reception. Currently it is being used by analogue television signals.

Read: Vodacom just launched a super-fast 5G service in Lesotho – because SA's spectrum policy is a mess

Rain plans to roll out 5G on its existing licensed spectrum, on 3.6GHz. Roos says it will leverage Rain's current 4G network infrastructure to enable a rapid and cost-effective roll out, on what is called a non-standalone (NSA) 5G network.

NSA works on the backbone of 4G LTE networks to provide 5G-enabled smartphones that will connect to 5G frequencies for data-throughput improvements. It will, however, still use 4G for non-data duties such as talking to the cell towers and servers, according to

Roos says this is in-line with current international standards.

South Africa plans to release 5G licences once the standards of 5G has been agreed upon by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the telecommunications body of the United Nations. Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Siyabonga Cwele told Business Insider last year this was expected to be rolled out by 2020.  

The benefit of 5G is that it is a wireless network. It is easier to install in dense cities - fibre needs underground cabling.

While most people would know Huawei for its phones, they also focus on end-to-end 5G solutions.

Last year, Huawei launched its full range of 5G end-to-end product solutions, from core network, bearer network and base stations to terminals.

This year Huawei showcased its 5G foldable smartphone, the HUAWEI Mate X; and the HUAWEI 5G CPE (Customer Premise Equipment) Pro, the first commercial products housing the Balong 5000. 

Read: Check out Huawei's 5G foldable phone, the Mate X

"It is an important step working with Rain to build the first 5G network in South Africa. With our solutions, we are committed to working with operators to build future-orientated networks that will give them the maximum value from their investment and give their customers the best user experience," said Shi Jilin, President of Huawei Cloud Core Network Product Line. 

For more, go to Business Insider South Africa.

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