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Vodacom uses temporary spectrum to launch 5G network in Kimberley

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Vodacom Central Region claims it has become the first network provider to switch on the first live 5G mobile network in Kimberley in the Northern Cape province.

In a statement, the mobile operator says the 5G network supports both mobile and fixed wireless access services.

Vodacom customers with 5G-enabled devices, and within a 5G coverage area, are now able to access the new 5G network in the Northern Cape province, it notes.

In May 2020, Vodacom switched on its live 5G mobile network in three cities – Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town.

This network supports both mobile and fixed wireless services and is currently available in the Free State, Gauteng, Western Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal.

To launch the 5G network in the Northern Cape, Vodacom used the temporary spectrum assigned by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), specifically 1x50MHz in the 3.5GHz band.

However, this week ICASA issued a statement saying operators must return the temporary spectrum by 30 November.

The temporary radio frequency spectrum was first assigned by means of an expedited invitation to apply during April 2020 on the initial declaration of the National State of Disaster, occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

ITWeb today reported that South Africa's mobile operators are concerned that if the telecoms regulator takes back the temporary spectrum prematurely, it may have a significant impact on data supply to South Africans.

The operators are calling on ICASA to again extend the temporary spectrum allocation, as the country is still battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vodacom says it has decided to use the 700MHz band for wide-scale mobile, 5G coverage and is supplementing network capacity with 3.5GHz where required.

Evah Mthimunye, managing executive for Vodacom Central Region, says: “The team and I are delighted to become the first network provider to rollout the fastest 5G network in the Northern Cape province.

“As the leading network provider in South Africa, we have always been committed to investing in the latest networks to give our customers access to networks that provide fast speeds. Critically, the latest mobile networking technology will ultimately help the region bridge the digital divide between the urban and rural areas of the province by extending access to affordable mobile broadband, especially as an alternative to fibre connectivity in underserviced township areas.”

The operator believes more 5G devices are expected to become accessible to South Africans in future. “Already, we are seeing the introduction of increasingly cost-effective 5G-enabled smartphones around the world, not just in the premium segment but also in the mid-tier segment,” it says.

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