MTN CEO warns about getting too excited over 5G in South Africa

 ·8 Aug 2018
Robert Rob Shuter MTN CEO

MTN group president and CEO, Rob Shuter, has warned over getting carried away with the imminent arrival of 5G networks – the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, which will ensure faster speeds and more reliable connections for devices.

Back in January, MTN, in partnership with Ericsson, conducted the first “5G technology and applications trial in Africa” at its head office in Johannesburg.

MTN achieved a throughput of over 20Gbps with less than 5ms latency in the 5G trial, which is “the highest achieved on a mobile network in Africa”.

The operator said that the time that the tests will lead to the commercial deployment of 5G technologies in the near future.

“MTN and its partners continue identifying 5G use cases and applications for the digital transformation of industries,” it said at the time.

And in May, MTN partnered with Huawei to conduct the first 5G outdoor trial on the continent.

Using Huawei’s recently-launched commercial 5G terminal in conjunction with an existing tower, MTN reached download speeds of 530Mbps and upload speeds of 79Mbps, along with a latency of 7ms – measured in an online speed test.

The network allocated 100MHz of its high-frequency 28GHz spectrum to conduct the test and used Huawei’s 5G outdoor terminal to deliver the connection to a Huawei Wi-Fi router.

“This is the first time we are demonstrating a complete end-to-end 5G network operating in a real-world environment,” said MTN.

Shuter told media at the company’s headquarters on Wednesday, however, that the roll-out of 5G in the country will be much more case-based.

“The way we speak about 3G coverage…and 4G, we won’t speak about it (5G) in the same way. This is a technology still looking for an application,” Shuter said, highlighting the expense related to the equipment, and roll-out of such a service.

Read: 5G countdown for South Africa: here’s what you can expect

Rival operator for South Africa, Vodacom Group, meanwhile is also investing in its local network to enable the wireless carrier to roll out fifth-generation connectivity – once a long-delayed auction of additional spectrum is given the green light.

“We are modernizing our network, including radio and transmission,” chief technology officer Andries Delport told Bloomberg. “Accessing spectrum remains a critical factor in further improving network quality and coverage, and reducing data costs.”

Vodacom has invested R4.6 billion in the first six months of 2018, to upgrade and expand its network in SA, while MTN said in a statement on Wednesday (08 August), that it spent R3.907 billion in 1H2018, with a guidance of R9.675 billion for 2018.

According to MTN, 5G will allow for the following improvements over 4G:

  • 1,000-times the capacity
  • 100-times the speed
  • 100-times the connected devices
  • 10-times lower latency
  • 10-times reliability

 Read: MTN South Africa lifts digital revenue and customer growth

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