5G will drive down data costs in South Africa – Vodacom CEO

Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub says that the imminent 5G technology will drive down mobile and data costs in South Africa.

Speaking at the 2018 MyBroadband Conference, Joosub warned that a lack of spectrum remains a big barrier to cheaper data costs. “If you can halve the input costs, you can halve the price,” he said, noting that one needs to make data cheaper to ‘manufacture’.

“The market is tough – it’s a lot tougher,” said Joosub, pointing to the state of the economy – “the consumer is under pressure,” he said.

“You have to continue to invest – to be able to deal with the massive data growth. Our success is based on investment. You have to put money in to see results,” the chief executive said, highlighting that Vodacom has invested just under R10 billion in its network in 2018.

This has enabled 85% of the South African population to be covered with 4G, Joosub said.

He added that looking ahead, 5G enables the company to emulate a fixed network. “Africa should be at the forefront of 5G because it needs it more,” Joosub said.

In August, Vodacom launched Africa’s first commercial 5G service, in Lesotho.

The 5G service uses 3.5GHz spectrum to deliver fixed-wireless access to two enterprise customers in the country.

Vodacom also announced it has deployed the same standards-based 5G technology in South Africa, with “speeds in excess of 700Mbps and latencies of less than 10 milliseconds”.

Joosub said that if the requisite spectrum was made available in South Africa, the 5G services could be rolled out in the country.

The chief executive said that traffic has grown 50% year on year over the past five years, on Vodacom’s network, while prices have come down 20% at the same time. In order for prices to be brought down faster, costs need to come down, and 5G will enable that, said Joosub.

On the fibre-to-the-home market, Joosub told delegates at the conference that the group has 70,000 homes passed. He said that more investment is needed in that space, with the group looking at partnerships to grow more aggressively.

He said he believes that there will be some consolidation in the fibre space in the near future.

Read: MTN talks 5G future in South Africa

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5G will drive down data costs in South Africa – Vodacom CEO