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Telkom’s 5G network goes live in various parts of SA

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 27 Oct 2022

Telkom has become the latest telco to step into SA’s increasingly growing 5G market, launching the fifth-generation technology in partnership with Huawei today.

Additional spectrum made available to the market has propelled Telkom’s connectivity ecosystem and catapulted its journey into 5G connectivity.

The official launch took place today at the DP World Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.

Over the past 24 months, Telkom says it has been meticulously building its 5G network capacity in preparation for the national rollout of its 5G network – an ultra-speed, superior Internet connection that supersedes the previous LTE and 4G connections.

Speaking at the launch today, Lunga Siyo, CEO of Telkom Consumer and Business, noted that while 4G remains the bedrock of the majority of Telkom customers, the telco’s 5G network is already live in several parts of the country.

“Although 5G stands head and shoulders above 4G and LTE through faster and more reliable connection it provides; however, it was critical for us to make sure that our existing 4G ecosystem remains strong whilst introducing 5G into the market,” stated Siyo.

“The 5G network supplements our current connectivity ecosystem, offering a diversity of connectivity solutions and improved network responsiveness. 5G is the next frontier of technological innovation and we are excited to bring this technology to the fingertips of all South Africans to realise the potential of a fully connected world.”

Huawei, as Telkom's strategic partner, will not only help to build 5G networks but is also responsible for supporting Telkom achieve business success in the 5G era, he added.

According to Siyo, Telkom will primarily focus on providing superfast 5G fixed wireless access solutions. As the demand for mobile 5G increases, the group will supplement this with suitable mobile propositions.

Lunga Siyo, CEO of Telkom Consumer and Business.
Lunga Siyo, CEO of Telkom Consumer and Business.

Enabling businesses

The next-generation network is tipped to open up new opportunities for smart cities, businesses, healthcare, manufacturing and autonomous vehicles.

In the manufacturing industry, 5G offers manufacturers the chance to build smart operations and take advantage of technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality for troubleshooting, and the internet of things.

Manufacturing makes up close to 12% of South Africa’s GDP, and there’s a solid case to make regarding the value of 5G in transforming business models, added Siyo.

According to Ericsson’s Mobility Report released in June, global connections to 5G networks are set to reach 1.2 billion by the end of 2022, nearly doubling 5G connections from 2021.

It further notes that 5G connections are expected to reach 4.4 billion – almost half of all subscriptions – by 2027, when about three-quarters of the world's population will have access to 5G.

"5G, with its ultra-high-speed and low-latency, will support new services for South African consumers, like online augmented and virtual reality gaming and UHD streaming; it will also enable businesses with cloud and AI technologies,” said Fortune Wang director of Huawei South Africa’s carrier business.

Discussing Telkom’s late arrival to the party, Lebo Masalesa, managing executive at Telkom, pointed out not all customers can afford 4G and 5G devices, noting that the company has been “pragmatic” about the types of technologies the majority of its customers can afford.

“We are decommissioning 2G, with less than 20% of our network currently consisting of 2G. In terms of 3G, our long term strategy is to only carry voice traffic on 3G,” explained Masalesa.

In September 2019, mobile data-only network operator Rain became the first telco to activate commercial 5G network in Africa.

SA’s big mobile operators, Vodacom and MTN, were unable to launch 5G services until more spectrum was licensed to them by the communications regulator, the Independent Communications Authority of SA.

In May 2020, Vodacom went live with its 5G mobile network in three cities – Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town – with further rollouts taking place in other parts of the country later that year.

Later in the same month, MTN launched its own 5G network, going live with 100 sites. MTN covers areas of Johannesburg and Cape Town, as well as Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth.

The two mobile operators launched 5G at the height of COVID-19, during a time when mobile operators across the globe accelerated their rollout of commercial 5G offerings, to defy the strain caused by the pandemic.

Telkom also announced its partnership with the DP World Wanderers Stadium, a collaboration that sees the stadium becoming the first 5G-enabled stadium. The stadium will become an innovative digital entertainment destination that merges the physical and digital worlds, say the companies.