Liquid Telecom has 56 megahertz worth of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band
African wholesale operator Liquid Telecom is adding a 5G wireless network to its existing fiber offering, and plans to launch a 5G wholesale network in all major South African cities in early 2020, even before most of the country’s domestic operators have had the opportunity to bid for their own 5G spectrum licenses.
According to South African IT-based web news service Techcentral, Liquid has 56 megahertz worth of spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band, and that is precisely what the new service will make use of.
“This breakthrough 5G wholesale service will create innovation in every aspect of South African society and industry,” said Liquid Telecom chairman Strive Masiyiwa. “For the first time, mobile network operators and ISPs will have open access to Liquid Telecom’s new 5G mobile network. The launch of the service also underscores Liquid Telecom’s vision to bring high-speed connectivity to everyone.”
Liquid Telecom CEO Nic Rudnick called the decision to launch a wholesale wireless service “a milestone moment” for the company, adding that the company’s wholesale operating partners can “exploit our new ultra-fast 5G roaming network to build the next generation of communications and make innovation possible, anytime, anywhere.”
“5G will facilitate real-time remote collaboration, improved business efficiency and lower costs—ultimately driving growth in the South African economy,” he continued.
As mentioned above, the South African regulator, ICASA, has yet to decide 5G licenses plans for most other operators. State-owned Telkom has secured a license but has not released any details regarding its next moves yet. MTN and Vodacom, on the other hand, have not yet gotten their hands on any spectrum.
It appears that MTN and Vodacom will have to wait until next year for the chance to bid for the unallocated 116 megahertz of 3.5 GHz spectrum, despite both telecom’s claims that they’re ready for deployment now.
In fact, MTN selected Ericsson in November as its 5G network modernization vendor as part of its plan to launch 5G between 2020 and 2022.
Rain South Africa, however, is somewhat ahead of the game because it, too, has access to 3.6 GHz spectrum, and in September launched the country’s first 5G network in parts of Johannesburg and Tshwane, but is currently only offering fixed wireless access services, as opposed to mobile services.
Ovum took a look at the growth of 5G penetration is South Africa, estimating that Vodacom could have roughly 488,244 subscriptions by 2021 and over one million by 2022. Telkom is estimated to have only about half the number of subscriptions—436,656—by 2022, and MTN is expected to fall somewhere in the middle at 707,212 subscriptions by the same year.
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