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MTN, ZTE showcase Africa’s first live 5G video call

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MTN and ZTE unveiled a 5G motion-controlled robot and orchestrated a live interview via hologram.
MTN and ZTE unveiled a 5G motion-controlled robot and orchestrated a live interview via hologram.

Africa-focused mobile operator MTN and Chinese telecommunications company ZTE successfully showcased Africa’s first live video call using the operator’s 5G network technology at AfricaCom 2019 in Cape Town.

The companies used the opportunity to sign a memorandum of understanding dedicating both businesses to collaboration around 5G innovation, device and network implementation, and to develop further use-cases.

ZTE senior vice-president Jerry Zhou and MTN SA chief technology officer Giovanni Chiarelli were joined by deputy communications minister Pinky Kekana in a live call streamed over 5G.

The companies emphasised the uplink and downlink speeds achieved in the demonstration was on technology connected to MTN’s live core network and linked to its centre in Tygerberg, Cape Town.

They also demonstrated their virtual reality capability, unveiling a 5G motion-controlled robot and orchestrated a live interview via hologram.

Zhou said ZTE is very confident in 5G and has invested a substantial amount in its development, and the company has over 35 commercial contracts. He believes the high throughput and low latency of the technology makes it a practical fit for e-education, e-health, mining and manufacturing.

He described 5G as a game-changer that will revolutionise the technology industry and “gradually affect other industries positively”.

“We are proud to be partners with MTN and our intention is to be the champion in South Africa’s telecommunications sector and champion on the continent.”

South Africa must take the opportunity to leapfrog with this technology and not be left behind, Zhou added, advocating that next year is a critical timeframe for serious uptake and application.

Chiarelli said for 5G to eventually become commercially available, several “ingredients” are required, including radio telecommunications equipment, and a 5G-enabled core network and devices, along with regulations.

SA is ready in terms of the equipment necessary and the company’s network is 5G-ready, he noted.

He acknowledged that devices will be rolled out in the future, but these will be specifically targeted at the high-end market segment.

Both companies emphasised the need for confirmation of spectrum allocation, which remains a critical component of the entire end-to-end 5G puzzle in SA.

Kekana reiterated government’s commitment regarding spectrum allocation and said president Cyril Ramaphosa had confirmed government “could not be found wanting” and had recognised the game-changing quality of 5G.

“Government must be as agile as possible because industry is ready,” said Kekana, adding government continues to engage with the Independent Communications Authority of SA and there is a lot to do, but is happy to report “there is movement from that side”.

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