Liquid Telecom on Monday confirmed that it will launch a wholesale 5G network “early in 2020”.
This comes a month after TechCentral reported that the company had signed an agreement with Vodacom, allowing South Africa’s biggest mobile operator to launch 5G services this year.
“Available from early 2020 in all major South African cities, this fifth-generation of mobile Internet connectivity will enable wholesale operators to create innovative, ultrafast and scalable digital services for their customers,” Liquid Telecom said in a statement.
TechCentral reported in December that Vodacom and Liquid had signed a deal to exploit the latter’s legacy spectrum assignment in the 3.5GHz band. Neither company has commented on the plans.
Communications regulator Icasa is set to license some 5G spectrum this year, including in the 3.5GHz band, but that process could still be derailed given that communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has said previously she prefers a separate process for licensing 5G-suitable spectrum.
Liquid has a big chunk of spectrum — a single block of 56MHz of so-called “time-division duplex” frequency — in the 3.5GHz band, between 3 544MHz and 3 600MHz. The only other operators with access to this band are Telkom and Rain. Rain has launched a commercial fixed-wireless (as opposed to mobile) 5G network, while Telkom hasn’t communicated its plans yet for the technology.
The timing for Vodacom is important as a range of 5G-ready handsets are set to begin hitting the South African market next year, including the next Apple iPhone, which will be unveiled in September. The next flagship devices from Samsung and Huawei, coming early in the new year, are also likely to contain 5G chipsets. Operators that can provide 5G services to customers buying these handsets will get a head-start in the lucrative high end of the market.
In its statement on Monday, Liquid said: “The 5G wholesale network will also help accelerate the evolution of the fourth Industrial Revolution in South Africa. Reliable connectivity up to 10 times faster than 4G will allow businesses to harness trends such as the Internet of things, robotics and artificial intelligence to innovate transformative new services, increase productivity and deliver more connected customer experiences.”
“This is a milestone moment for Liquid Telecom South Africa,” said Liquid Telecom Group CEO Nic Rudnick. “Our wholesale operating partners can exploit our new, ultrafast 5G roaming network to build the next generation of communications and make innovation possible, anytime, anywhere. 5G will facilitate real-time remote collaboration, improved business efficiency and lower costs — ultimately driving growth in the South African economy.” — © 2020 NewsCentral Media