Comsol, a telecommunications company backed by Nedbank, the Industrial Development Corporation and Andile Ngcaba’s Convergence Partners, will launch the first fifth-generation (5G) network in South Africa next month.
The company, based in Midrand in Johannesburg, will launch a trial 5G network, with live customers, in partnership with Internet service providers with a view to launching a commercial 5G network thereafter. Several high sites will be used for the trial, which will take place in Gauteng.
Even though the standards for 5G are still being bedded down internationally, Comsol CEO Iain Stevenson believes the time is right to launch a network in South Africa using the technology.
Comsol has a big chunk of radio frequency spectrum in a band that is being set aside for 5G in the US by the Federal Communications Commission, meaning there will be access to a wide range of equipment able to serve the South African market, Stevenson said.
Comsol is already in talks to bring the test equipment into South Africa, though Stevenson declined to name the technology provider. The equipment will be pre-release hardware, but ready to be deployed in the local market on a trial basis.
The company has 280MHz of licensed spectrum around the 28GHz band, which it plans to use to build the 5G network. If the tests prove successful, the company could move quickly to build a network of national scope.
The trial will go live next month, and Comsol will work with existing go-to-market partners. It has close relationships with companies such as Vox and Dimension Data’s Internet Solutions.
The trial will consist of a fixed-wireless access network using a number of existing high sites. Because of the high frequency to be utilised, the cell size will be relatively small — coverage will be within about 2km of each base station. But Stevenson is optimistic the 5G “point-to-multipoint” network will be able to deliver 1Gbit/s access speeds to each of the business customers that use it.
Comsol, which has deployed a national high-speed open-access wireless network for businesses in the past year, must still get the necessary “type approval” from Icasa for the equipment needed to build a national commercial 5G network. “We will do the trials, see the capabilities of the kit, and then do some financial modelling on what offerings we could provide the market. Based on that, we will decide where we will deploy the network.” — © 2017 NewsCentral Media