Communications service provider MTN has gone live with Ericsson-powered commercial 5G in the South African cities of Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth.
“Today, from MTN’s birthplace of South Africa, we are stepping up our digital revolution with the next generation of telecommunication technology, demonstrating to all South Africans that 5G is no longer just an idea – it is here, it works and it has the capacity to bring about exponential improvements to our economy, and to the lives of the people we serve,” says MTN SA’s CEO, Godfrey Motsa.
Today’s launch comes on the back of government’s allocation of temporary spectrum, but is also the culmination of extensive 5G trials and testing.
“For the past two years, we have been actively innovating around the potential of 5G, using different bands and various vendors and across different platforms and devices, to ensure MTN South Africa can maintain leadership in 5G, as we have been able to maintain our leadership in 4G,” says MTN SA Chief technology and information officer, Giovanni Chiarelli.
“Our 5G strategy has been years in the making and we are confident that we have built a strong foundation to grow and support our 5G ecosystem to deliver an exceptional experience for our customers,” says Chiarelli.
MTN has adopted Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS), as these deployments overcome the challenges of lack of dedicated 5G spectrum.
The South African operator has confirmed that it will deliver 5G connectivity on four different spectral bands:
- 3.5GHz at 58 sites in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Bloemfontein.
- 2 100MHz and 1 800MHz at 35 sites in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.
- 700MHz at five sites that include Port Alfred, Hopetown, Virginia Queenstown and Tsantsabane.
- 28GHz at three sites in Hatfield (Pretoria), Edenvale and Durban.
Fadi Pharaon, President, Ericsson Middle East and Africa, says: “The 5G era in South Africa is becoming a reality. Soon, South Africans will be able to experience 5G in their daily lives and witness its positive impact on society and industry. We have a rich history of working in close partnership with MTN and now we are going live with 5G in South Africa. With many live commercial 5G networks across the globe, we look forward to continuing our long-standing partnership with MTN, jointly leading and driving innovation to ensure the digitalization of Africa.”
In another first, MTN was today the first in the southern hemisphere to demonstrate AAA game streaming over its 5G network. In a partnership with Emerge Gaming, MTN demonstrated GameGloud on 5G streamed to a Huawei P40 Pro phone.
“Cloud gaming means top line games are available, all the time, in the cloud. No console required, your device becomes the controller and, with 5G, the speed and reliability of the signal means you never need to download a game, because your personal data is always there waiting for you,” says MTN SA Chief Digital Officer, Ernst Fonternel.
“Cloud gaming will do to gaming what video-on-demand has done to TV; it’s a complete game-changer – only this is a game-changer that will be delivered by 5G,” Fonternel says.
Motsa says MTN’s roll-out of its 5G network will be ramped up to even more sites once government allocates permanent spectrum through the planned auction later this year.
“We are extremely encouraged by the release of the temporary spectrum. Our call to the regulator and government is to release permanent 4G and 5G spectrum as a matter of urgency so that we can fuel the digital revolution our nation needs to bridge the digital divide that currently deepens the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’,” says Motsa.
“The biggest telecommunication opportunities for the masses of South Africans are for operators to deliver ultra-fast broadband to townships that continue to be significantly underserved by fixed-line fibre services. If the spectrum is made available, the coverage is a given and the affordability can be achieved. Although we are starting relatively small, our growth plans for our 5G ecosystem are huge,” Motsa says.