Andries Delport, CTO from Vodacom.
Vodacom does not make any public announcements about when it will launch 5G in the SA but says that when it will probably do it will be deployed in areas where there are specific cases of use.
"5G will happen, the question is how fast it will happen," said Vodafone CTO Andries Delport at a round table at Vodacom on AfricaCom 2018 sideboards in Cape Town.
"Personally, I do not think you will see massive network expansion, like 3,000 or 4,000 sites in a year, will be very determined by the usage cases we define."
He argued that one of the first cases of local use would probably be the implementation of fixed wireless 5G fiber-optic connectivity services.
"If we look at a fixed line penetration, it is very weak. Yes, we launch fiber at home and fiber-to-business, but the number of households we hold is still relatively small compared to the total number of households in the country. , fixed Internet access is certainly one of the uses we consider and for which we believe that 5G will be useful. "
This week, the Rain data network, ITWeb said it wants to make JSC one of the top five countries globally to launch 5G plans for a 5G commercial service to be available early next year. The network operator also believes that the first 5G application in the SA will be accessible in high speed broadband rather than mobile.
Vodacom has a roaming agreement with Rain, but this does not extend to the planned 5G network.
In September, Vodacom Lesotho became the first company to launch 5G business on the African continent, but in SA, Vodacom still awaits the required spectrum before announcing 5G official plans.
"I can not have any kind of discussion without talking about the spectrum." So far, we did not get any extra spectrum in the SA to launch 4G, so we had to take the existing spectrum and squeeze the 3G traffic from that spectrum and allocate it to 4G " "said Delport.
The government has pledged to authorize the high-frequency radio spectrum early next year, which is likely to be used for 4G, but the 5G spectrum allocation plans are still unclear.
Delport noted that there is a lot of hype around 5G. "There is a lot of optimism around it, but a lot of skepticism around it. If you look at some predictions, they see that there will be at least three billion to five billion 5G connections in eight years in the world." Delport added.
"People often ask about 5G: is a massive investment needed? Some say yes, I think most operators say they will probably not change the company's capex profile – focus especially on use cases."
Vodacom has spent 4 billion euros for capital investment in its network in six months through September 30.
Delport said Vodacom already covers 99.9% of the SA population by 2G, 99.8% through 3G and about 84% by 4G. The group already has 1,500 to 2,000 narrowband internet sites (NB-IOT), and 5G has considerably improved its IOT capabilities. Now, Vodacom has over 4 million IOT devices running on its network, from 3.27 million a year ago.
5G is expected to deliver much improved speeds, more capacity and less latency than LTE 4G, and will support advanced use cases such as auto-driving, automated manufacturing and mining, and potential advances in health care and education .
William Mzimba, head of Vodacom Business, expects 5G to facilitate and accelerate IOT application deployment, but stressed that if 5G is not targeted properly, it could be a wasteful technology.
"If you go and launch 5G everywhere for the purpose of what was designed for 5G and you have no cases of use then you do not have any business case. You do not need a 1 millisecond latency to make a phone so it is not a case of using 5G to make phone calls. Using the case for 5G is around how we send petabytes or terabytes of data to 1ms to allow things that require this type of speed to make decisions quickly, latency.
"We're not just going to spraying the whole country with 5G or NB-IOT when it does not need that specific geographic area that we're going to do. It's a smart way to go," Mzimba added.
The Vodacom executive, which has agreed to 5G for mobile, will probably come later, because the lack of 5G devices is still a problem in the mobile space.
"You should start seeing the first 5G affordable smartphones around the middle of next year, but these devices will be extremely expensive," said Nicholas Naidu, chief executive of Vodacom for technology strategy, architecture and innovation.
"You also need to think about this from both client and operator perspective when thinking about 5G on a device. For a customer, what will that speed do on the initial phone?" We see that 5G benefits are due to that it has a much better capacity and is more efficient, so we can have much more data on our network at a much lower 5G cost if we need this capacity, "Naidu said.
"The difference between 5G and previous technologies is that it truly opens a whole new set of new possibilities from a user-friendliness perspective. That's because of latency and speed, so things you can not usually do on networks 4G or 3G, is now possible with 5G, extending beyond smartphones, such as wireless fixed access, other applications in enterprise automation or critical mission control. "