Lesotho emerges as unlikely testbed for 5G revolution

Johannesburg - The mountainous kingdom of Lesotho has become an unexpected test venue for high-speed 5G mobile technology that is set to revolutionise global communication, transport and entertainment.

Two companies in the country's tiny capital Maseru are now using one of the world's first commercial 5G networks on the long-awaited 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum.

The network in Lesotho, set up by Vodacom, delivers speeds of up to 700 megabits per second, allowing movies to be downloaded in seconds and could in future provide safe technology for driverless cars.

"It is a bit of a testbed for us," Andries Delport, Vodacom's chief technology officer, told AFP on Friday after the service was launched.

"With 5G, there is a lot of hype based on future use. It is transformative... it allows us to start talking about driverless cars, and robots and machines in factories," he said.

"I can tell you, the Lesotho people are super-proud of this."

Just 530 employees at the head offices of the Central Bank of Lesotho and the Letseng Diamond Mining company in Maseru currently enjoy the 5G speeds, but Vodacom plans to extend the scheme.

The Lesotho network, which is the first in Africa, could mean that customers on the continent could avoid the need for expensive fibre cabling, instead "leap-frogging" to the new higher speeds.

Other commercial networks have been set up in Qatar and Saudi Arabia in the race to bring 5G, meaning "Fifth Generation", to customers.

Lesotho, which is entirely surrounded by South Africa, has a population of just 2.2 million.

It is known as the "Kingdom in the Sky" as it largely consists of rugged mountains with some villages accessible only by foot or pony.

Vodacom said it chose Lesotho because the government offered the 3.5 GHz spectrum that has not yet been alloted in South Africa and many other countries.

* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER

ZAR/USD
17.04
(-0.38)
ZAR/GBP
21.81
(-0.11)
ZAR/EUR
19.90
(-0.12)
ZAR/AUD
12.03
(-0.12)
ZAR/JPY
0.16
(-1.12)
Gold
1860.65
(+0.03)
Silver
22.87
(+0.11)
Platinum
844.51
(+0.50)
Brent Crude
42.23
(-0.12)
Palladium
2207.00
(+0.59)
All Share
53587.11
(-1.22)
Top 40
49547.74
(-1.16)
Financial 15
9401.28
(-1.95)
Industrial 25
72949.70
(-1.72)
Resource 10
53453.42
(-0.10)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo
Company Snapshot
Voting Booth
Do you think it was a good idea for the government to approach the IMF for a $4.3 billion loan to fight Covid-19?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes. We need the money.
11% - 1368 votes
It depends on how the funds are used.
73% - 8860 votes
No. We should have gotten the loan elsewhere.
16% - 1959 votes
Vote