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MTN launches 5G across 100 sites

MTN today became the third operator to launch a 5G network in SA, following Rain and Vodacom – but with a much wider footprint

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MTN today launched its next generation 5G network with demonstrations of smartphones achieving download speeds of more than 600Mbps.

Launching today with 100 sites, MTN’s 5G network covers areas of Johannesburg and Cape Town, as well as Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth. This provides the broadest coverage yet for a 5G network in South Africa. Rain is available only in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Tshwane/Pretoria, while Vodacom also covers most of Tshwane/Pretoria.

“5G is no longer just an idea – it is here, it works and it has the capacity to bring about exponential improvements to our economy, and to the lives of the people we serve,” says MTN SA’s CEO, Godfrey Motsa.

Today’s launch comes on the back of government’s allocation of temporary spectrum but is also the culmination of extensive 5G trials and testing. 

“For the past two years we have been actively innovating around the potential of 5G, using different bands and various vendors and across different platforms and devices,” says MTN SA Chief Technology and Information Officer, Giovanni Chiarelli. 

“Our 5G strategy has been years in the making and we are confident that we have built a strong foundation to grow and support our 5G ecosystem to deliver an exceptional experience for our customers.”  

One of the key innovations driving the broad rollout by MTN has been a strategic approach to Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS), as these deployments overcome the challenges of lack of dedicated 5G spectrum. 

MTN will deliver 5G connectivity on four different spectral bands:

  • 3.5 GHz at 58 sites: This is the ideal spectrum band for 5G, known as the “Golden Band” which offers a truly world-class 5G experience with both faster speeds and low latencies. MTN has deployed sites in the 3.5 GHz band in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Bloemfontein.• 2100MHz and 1800MHz at 35 sites: MTN SA is introducing the re-farming of some 4G spectrum to allow us to run 4G and 5G spectrum, at the same time, in the same band. This allows for easier migration of network technology from LTE to 5G. It also allows us to deploy 5G using existing spectrum assets in the absence of additional high demand spectrum. MTN has deployed 5G sites on 2100MHz in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.
  • 700MHz at 5 sites: This is an excellent band for extensive coverage, making it ideal for use for urban indoor settings and for small towns and rural coverage due to the low band frequency propagation. Small towns now covered by MTN 5G using the 700MHz include Port Alfred, Hopetown, Virginia, Queenstown, and Tsantsabane.  
  • 28GHz at 3 sites: This high frequency bandwidth, offers great speeds, making this ideal for Fixed Wireless Access 5G connectivity. This solution has been deployed in Hatfield (Pretoria), Edenvale and Durban.
  • This new generation technology will unlock the full capabilities of next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, artificial intelligence, robotics, automated cars, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

MTN also today demonstrated AAA game streaming over its 5G network. In a partnership with Emerge Gaming, MTN demonstrated GameGloud on 5G streamed to a Huawei P40 Pro phone.

“Cloud gaming means top line games are available, all the time, in the cloud,” says MTN SA chief digital officer Ernst Fonternel. “No console required, your device becomes the controller and with 5G, the speed and reliability of the signal means you never need to download a game, because your personal data is always there waiting for you.

“Cloud gaming will do to gaming what video-on-demand has done to TV, it’s a complete game-changer only this is a game-changer that will be delivered by 5G.”

Motsa says MTN’s rollout of its 5G network will be ramped up to even more sites once government allocates permanent spectrum through the planned auction later this year.

“We are extremely encouraged by the release of the temporary spectrum,” says Motsa. “Our call to the regulator and government is to release permanent 4G and 5G spectrum as a matter of urgency, so that we can fuel the digital revolution our nation needs to bridge the digital divide that currently deepens the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. 

“The biggest telecommunication opportunities for the masses of South Africans, are for operators to deliver ultra-fast broadband to townships that continue to be significantly underserved by fixed line fibre services. If the spectrum is made available, the coverage is a given and the affordability can be achieved. Although we are starting relatively small our growth plans for our 5G ecosystem are huge.”

* For more information, visit www.mtn.co.za/5G

Update: Included Tshwane/Pretoria in the list of areas which have Rain 5G coverage.

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