MTN presses for auction of spectrum for next-generation network
JOHANNESBURG – MTN South Africa reiterated its call for the auction of spectrum yesterday as it launched its next-generation network.
MTN has become the latest mobile operator to launch its 5G network after Rain, South Africa’s mobile data-only network operator, and Vodacom.
MTN will cover 5G connectivity on four different spectral bands including 3.5GHz at 58 sites; 2 100MHz and 1 800MHz at 35 sites; 700MHz at five sites; and 28GHz at three sites.
The company launched its 5G network with 100 sites, covering Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth.
MTN SA chief executive Godfrey Motsa said the benefits of 5G were higher-peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, increased reliability and greater network capacity.
“It is more than 10 times faster than 4G, so no buffering on video. It has more than 100 times the capacity we have with 4G. If you are at FNB Stadium or Ellis Park Stadium, there is going to be no network congestion if that SIM card is yellow,” said Motsa.
Motsa said MTN began its 5G journey two years ago and gave credit to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa).
“The biggest credit goes to Icasa. They gave us the 5G spectrum, albeit temporary,” he said, referring to Icasa’s move temporarily to release spectrum in April to address communication needs during the Covid-19 lockdown. The spectrum is valid until November, with the government scheduled to auction spectrum by the end of this year.
“We are super hungry for the spectrum; it is our oxygen. We need it to breathe. We cannot do what we did with 4G; 10 years of nothingness. We need 5G spectrum now so that we can fuel the digital revolution. We cannot be spectators and clapping for the Chinese and Americans, and all those guys who are leading. South Africa has to lead on the continent,” he said.
Motsa said there was 96 percent 4G coverage, and MTN had to accelerate coverage on 5G. He committed to covering 12 million people on the 5G network within a year of the spectrum allocation.
MTN SA chief technology and information officer Giovanni Chiarelli said the launch came on the back of the government’s allocation of temporary spectrum, but was 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 to ensure MTN South Africa can maintain leadership in 5G, as we have been able to maintain our leadership in 4G,” Chiarelli said.
MTN yesterday also demonstrated AAA game streaming over its 5G network. In partnership with Emerge Gaming, MTN demonstrated GameGloud on 5G streamed to a Huawei P40 Pro phone.
MTN SA chief digital officer Ernst Fonternel said cloud gaming meant top-line games were available, all the time, in the cloud.
MTN shares closed 4.26 percent lower at R52.83 on the JSE on Tuesday.