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Ericsson zeroes in on SA’s promising 5G market

Read time 4min 20sec
Nikiwe Gwatyu, marketing manager for Ericsson Africa.
Nikiwe Gwatyu, marketing manager for Ericsson Africa.

Swedish multinational networking and telecommunications company Ericsson is looking to play a leading role in SA's emerging 5G market.

This as South African telcos are taking a multi-vendor approach in their deployment of the next-generation connectivity technology.

So far, Vodacom, MTN and data-only network Rain have announced commercial 5G launches in SA.

However, 5G networks are expected to remain patchy in the big metros for some time, as the telcos are still waiting for spectrum to be allocated by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (ICASA).

ICASA has promised it will auction the much-needed high-demand spectrum by December, and it is only after this process is finalised that 5G networks will start expanding in SA.

The companies that are positioning themselves to take advantage of the 5G growth in SA include Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia and ZTE.

According to the GSMA, 5G will account for as many as 1.2 billion connections by 2025. It adds that by 2025, 5G networks are likely to cover one-third of the world’s population, and the impact on the mobile industry and its customers will be profound.

5G flexibility focus

This month, Ericsson revealed it achieved a 5G milestone by securing the company’s 100th commercial 5G agreement, or contract, with communications service providers. This includes 58 publicly announced contracts and 56 live 5G networks, spanning five continents.

In an e-mail interview with ITWeb, Nikiwe Gwatyu, marketing manager for Ericsson Africa, says Ericsson went live commercially with 5G for MTN on 30 June 2020.

“Ericsson was announced as an MTN South Africa vendor in November 2019 to deploy products and solutions spanning its radio access network Ericsson Radio System, transport and 5G core network portfolios. Ericsson will also deploy Ericsson Spectrum Sharing,” Gwatyu says.

MTN’s 5G deployment in Johannesburg also uses Huawei's Massive MIMO technology, which enables high bandwidth such as 4K video, multi-angle video and AR/VR services.

Gwatyu notes Ericsson will also reinforce MTN’s existing LTE network while optimising its 5G network.

“Ericsson Radio System products for this purpose will be deployed in several regions. The 5G-ready solutions in the Ericsson Radio System portfolio will help boost the capacity of the operator’s LTE networks and broaden the availability of high-quality mobile broadband services for subscribers,” she says.

“Ericsson will continue to support our customers by working with them to develop the best solutions to deploy 5G coverage for all market segments in SA.”

According to Gwatyu, the South African market presents an opportunity to really showcase the flexibility of 5G because there is a demand for all use cases that can be supported in the 5G ecosystem.

“For example, high bit rate data services such as video streaming, long-range low data rate massive and critical Internet of things (IOT) services such as livestock monitoring, ultra-low latency services such as medical care services, and long-range mobile broadband such as rural Internet services, are all great use cases of 5G’s potential.”

More for less

Gwatyu points out that the initial payback for 5G to telecom service providers is lower cost to address traffic growth.

She explains that these cost-efficiencies will be enough to cover spectrum licences and upgrades to 5G. “For service providers to prevent spiralling costs, or having to degrade performance for end-users in the network, they will have to lower the cost per gigabyte.

“This can be done first by adding more radio spectrum (carriers) to a 4G network, adding advanced antenna technology such as MIMO and eventually upgrading to 5G, especially in densely populated areas with high capacity needs in the networks.”

She adds that according to Ericsson’s economic study of enhanced mobile broadband, evolution to 5G will allow for a cost per gigabyte that is 10 times lower than current 4G.

Gwatyu notes that the adoption of new cloud-native technology in the core network will provide significant improvements on operational efficiency that, combined with user plane optimisation, will also contribute to lower the cost per gigabyte.

On top of the cost-efficiency payback, she says telecom service providers have options to address new incremental revenue opportunities based on their market specifics.

“For some, fixed wireless access will be a key growth opportunity to address a new market or underserved customers.”

Another opportunity is massive and critical IOT, Gwatyu says.

“Industry digitalisation and 5G open new material revenue opportunities for telecom service providers. We see many progressive service providers already starting to experiment and address these opportunities, based on 4G, with a mindset on the opportunities that 5G will offer.

“To better understand new use cases, support our customers and build an ecosystem, we are collaborating with leading telecom operators worldwide, more than 40 universities and technology institutes and 30 industry partners,” she concludes.

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