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From left to right: Hauwei Southern Africa VP, Yang Chen; rain non executive chair, Phumlani Moholi, Wits VC, Prf Adam Habib, Tshimologon CEO, Lesley Williams, incoming WITS VC, Prof Zeblon Vilakazi and DDG of International Cooperation and Resources, Dept of Science and Innovation, Daan du Toit


Huawei, rain, Wits, open 5G lab

Huawei, rain and Wits University have jointly launched Africa’s first 5G laboratory, which gives students access to a live 5G environment to build knowledge of the technology’s applications for the local market.

The 5G Innovation Lab, situated at the Wits Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct, is part of a longer-term joint innovation programme between business and the leading academic institution. It is aimed at driving innovations to promote social progress for South Africa in the digital era or fourth industrial revolution (4IR).

In terms of the collaboration, Huawei provides its end-to-end 5G solution, supported by rain’s 5G network. The lab will initially showcase two 5G applications, namely smart/safe campus and virtual reality (VR) remote education.

“The purpose of this exciting partnership is to give students early access to 5G technology,” said Huawei Southern Africa region vice-president, Yang Chen. “This will allow them to experiment and interact with the 5G platforms that will enable the 4IR.”

Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology, Dr. Blade Nzimande, says the facility will give students an opportunity to innovate solutions for local problems. He added that 5G could support a number of applications that would help South Africans.

“We are very encouraged by the efforts of Huawei, rain and Wits to establish academic R&D capabilities, this is very important as we move into the digital economy,” says Nzimande

Wits vice-chancellor and principal Professor Adam Habib says he has high expectations for the partnership with Huawei and rain. 

Habib says: “We are working with the pioneers in digital innovation to train a generation of smart, savvy scholars who will transform the world, using the latest technology available to effect beneficial change in our world. We are not reimagining the future, we are creating a better future for all today.” 

Supporting African local innovation is also a key consideration for 5G service provider, rain.

Brandon Leigh, rain’s chief strategy officer and co-founder, says: “We are proud to partner with Huawei and Wits University to build the first 5G Innovation Lab in Africa, we believe that young innovators will use the 5G Innovation Lab to push the boundaries for the next technological leaps right here on the African continent. The Instagram, TikTok or self-driving car innovation of the next generation could be born here by a young mind at Wits.”

Among other 5G applications, the Lab will investigate live, virtual-reality (VR) e-learning broadcasts of lectures and classes. The Lab will also feature a hub relaying feeds from cross-campus safety and security camera networks. The lab is supported by 5G base station installed by rain.

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