Vodacom, which is majority owned by Britain’s Vodafone, plans to offer 5G mobile services to its South African customers this year by using a network built by Liquid Telecom – another African operator. This information has been revealed by Vodacom Chief Executive, Shameel Joosub.
In January, Liquid Telecom announced it was building a wholesale 5G network that would be available from early 2020, using its share of the 3.5 GHz spectrum required for 5G. The company also said it would allow other operators to roam on its 5G network and that its wholesale service would be available in major South African cities.
pic.twitter.com/VwP7MbqIePJanuary 21, 2020
5G roll-out date unknown
Vodacom have said it will manage the 5G network on behalf of Liquid Telecom, but it is yet unknown when the service will be available. Indeed, mobile operators in South Africa have already complained about delays in allocating the spectrum needed to roll-out 5G networks in the country.
Although Vodacom and competitor MTN have both been running pilots for 5G networks using the spectrum from the regulator but they aren’t allowed to offer it commercially yet. The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa is due to outline the required process and timing for licensing and assigning 5G spectrum in April.
To date, Rain, who are a mobile operator that provides data services only, has launched a fixed-wireless 5G network, offering a fast broadband connection to homes and businesses without requiring cables, in Johannesburg and Tshwane.
"Having been the first network to commercially launch 5G in Africa through Vodacom Lesotho, we expect to be able to launch 5G services in South Africa this year," said Vodacom’s Shameel Joosub. "This is possible thanks to a recent roaming agreement with Liquid Telecom, as 5G spectrum is largely unassigned in South Africa."
The merger will make Vodacom, which has already launched a 5G mobile service in the small African nation of Lesotho, the first operator in South Africa to offer 5G to 5G phones.
Vodacom’s trading update for the quarter ended 31 December 2019, showed group revenue up 6.6% and an additional 484 000 customers in South Africa.