Vodacom has yet to launch its commercial 5G network – based on a recently signed national roaming agreement with Liquid Telecom in South Africa – but TechCentral this week was able to put the early roll-out of the infrastructure through its paces.
We were able to do this thanks to a review 5G smartphone from LG Electronics, the V50 ThinQ, which is available exclusively through Vodacom. We provided a Vodacom number to enable the Sim for access to the nascent 5G network and were pleasantly surprised that it worked at a nearby base station in Sunninghill, north of Johannesburg.
The base station is in the parking lot at the Sunninghill Village shopping centre, across the road from Eskom’s headquarters, Megawatt Park, on Maxwell Drive.
We ran a string of tests from our car, which was parked next to the base station. Download speeds were very impressive.
After multiple tests, the fastest speed achieved was 469Mbit/s. Upload speeds were more disappointing, at 13.9Mbit/s on the same test. Latency, or network round-trip time, was about 23 milliseconds, much slower than 5G can achieve (in theory). See below for speed test results.
We also got out of the car and went directly next to the tower but achieved similar speeds as we did inside the vehicle.
It should be noted that Vodacom customers shouldn’t try to replicate this test as the network operator has to enable 5G on their Sims to be able to access the network. We were only able to connect to 5G because of a special arrangement that allowed us to test LG’s handset.
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The slowest download speed achieved during the multiple speed tests performed was a very respectable 417Mbit/s. By comparison, 4G speeds seldom top 100Mbit/s in real-world conditions. The highest upload speed achieved was 14.1Mbit/s. Of course, the network is still in testing, and the upload performance is likely to improve before commercial roll-out happens.
LG South Africa said there are four areas in Gauteng that have 5G coverage: Vodacom World, Sandton, Sunninghill and outside the Mall of Africa in Midrand.
This comes three months after Vodacom announced a deal with Liquid Telecom to build a 5G network nationwide, as first reported by TechCentral in December.
Liquid Telecom has 56MHz of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band that it’s using to build the 5G network. Other operators with access to this band are Rain and Telkom; and only Rain has gone live with a commercial 5G offering.
Interestingly, Samsung did not bring out a 5G version of its recent S20 flagships that went on sale in South Africa in early March and has no current plans to bring them into the country. Samsung said it will only consider bringing them in once 5G networks are approved and running in South Africa.
It remains to be seen if Huawei will release a 5G version of its forthcoming P40 series, expected to be unveiled next week via a livestream event. – © 2020 NewsCentral Media