MTN launches 5G in SA thanks to newly allocated spectrum

Picture: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg
Picture: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

MTN has launched its 5G service for customers in SA using recently allocated spectrum.

Godfrey Motsa, MTN SA’s CEO, said: “The biggest credit goes to the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), which gave us the 5G spectrum. We’ve been asking for it for years now. They finally gave it to us, albeit temporarily.”

In April, Icasa, the telecom regulator, assigned temporary radio frequency spectrum to operators in an effort to tackle communication challenges related to the Covid-19 pandemic, valid until November. Spectrum refers to the radio frequencies on which data and information are carried.

MTN was assigned spectrum in the 3.5GHz band, which was used to fast-track the 5G launch.

5G, which is the fifth generation of mobile data technologies, is said to be about 10 times faster than 4G and 100 times faster than 3G. In a live demonstration, MTN show off speeds of about 600Mbps. 

Giovanni Chiarelli, MTN SA’s chief technology and information officer, said its 5G service is available at 100 sites across Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Port Alfred and Port Elizabeth.

Data-only operator Rain takes credit for being the first in the market to introduce 5G with its launch of fixed wireless products in September 2019.

In May, Vodacom used its temporary spectrum allocation to launch its commercial 5G network for both mobile and fixed wireless services and is currently available at 20 live 5G sites in Gauteng and the Western Cape.


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