Telkom’s big 5G plans


Telkom’s rollout of 5G is picking up pace, with plans to increase its current footprint of testing sites six-fold in the next year.

The operator told MyBroadband in February it had deployed 5G sites in selected areas and was optimising the user experience ahead of a commercial rollout.

In more recent feedback, Telkom confirmed a total of ten 5G sites were deployed nationally to test market propositions and performance. The operator said it anticipates the deployment of 50 more sites in the next year.

Telkom said its strategy for 5G was holistic and involved a number of considerations.

It explained that currently, around two-thirds of its network supports LTE-Advanced connectivity.

The operator said it expects 5G access on its network to complement this and account for 25-40% of connections by 2026.

The company has already upgraded its mobile core network to support non-standalone 5G radio technology.

This model of deployment allows for providing 5G services without an end-to-end 5G network by still using 4G for control functions like signalling.

It will also rely on its access to spectrum in the 3,500MHz band to provide strong 4G and 5G coverage in more areas.

Telkom aims to feed between 70-80% of its mobile towers with fibre to provide scalable backhaul for 5G connectivity.

Telkom is yet to announce the official commercial launch date of its 5G network.

Given that the operator is now South Africa’s third-largest mobile network by customers and has access to the most radio frequency spectrum, many expect it to be the next big 5G mobile player.

While Rain has offered 5G products to the public since 2019, this is limited to fixed data-only packages that cannot be used in a mobile device.

Vodacom and MTN launched their 5G mobile networks in 2020 and have gradually expanded coverage to more areas.

Recent tests by MyBroadband showed these networks were performing impressively in Gauteng, with average download speeds well over 400Mbps.

5G towers
5G towers in Gauteng.

Vodacom’s latest coverage map shows it offers 5G in parts of Pretoria, Centurion, Midrand, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban.

MTN’s 5G coverage is more extensive.

It now covers large parts of Gauteng and Emalahleni, in addition to sections of Bloemfontein, Cape Town, Durban, Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), Stellenbosch, Hartbeespoort, Rustenburg, and Polokwane.

As more areas get 5G coverage, demand for 5G products should increase as more people will be able to use the technology.

There are already a number of mid-range 5G-capable smartphones outside of the expensive flagship ranges of Samsung, Apple, and Huawei.

These include the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9T, Samsung Galaxy A52 5G, and Huawei P40 Lite 5G, all of which sell for between R5,000 and R10,000.

Now read: First town in South Africa gets Rain 5G — ahead of Durban


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