Which operator will launch the first 5G network? The race is still going on. New technology is not only interested in Asian and American operators. The Vodacom group in Africa has just announced that it is ready to implement the 5G network in South Africa. They are stopped only by the lack of licence for frequencies in the 3.5 GHz band.
Why do African operators want to start using the 5G network as soon as possible? Because, unlike telecoms operating in Europe, they do not have to provide coverage of new technology throughout the country. Mobile networks operating in South Africa are built in such a way that they function well in large cities, where there is a large concentration of users. Therefore, the construction of several 5G base stations in strategic places for the operator may turn out to be an investment that will pay back quickly. The Vodacom Group has already achieved its first successes in launching the 5G network in Africa. The first base stations are already operating in a small country of Lesotho, where the new technology is used by two strategic customers.
Operating in Africa, 5G offers 700 Mbps Internet connectivity speed
Such speeds are possible to achieve in the 3.5 GHz band using a 100 MHz block. Is this a good result? To be honest, it’s exactly the same spectral efficiency offered by LTE-Advanced networks. However, 5G has some advantages over LTE networks. The 5G base stations currently operating in Africa have not yet reached their full potential. They support Massive MIMO technology, which significantly increases their capacity. This means that the maximum data download speed is available not for one, but for several users located in the area served by the given base station sector. Representatives of the Vodacom network indicated that the current solution offered could accelerate from 700 Mbps to 1 Gbps. You need a software update for the base station and subscriber devices.
One more question remains. Who provided the base stations operating in Africa? We do not know that. The operator did not show who is his partner. We only know that Nokia and Vodacom South Africa signed agreements in November 2017 for the implementation of 5G independent networks in Africa. This is a solution called 5G NR SA (Standalone), which has not yet been standardized by the 3GPP organization. It is quite possible that Huawei has provided a solution based on the working version of the standard.