Johannesburg - MTN and Ericsson trialled the first tests for lightning-fast 5G in Africa during the first week of 2018, with a live demonstration on Monday.
This follows the signing by the two companies of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) at AfricaCom 2017 to collaborate on the rollout of 5G technologies in South Africa, one of the first of its kind in Africa.
The 5G trial with MTN achieved over 20Gbps with less than 5ms latency, which is the highest achieved on a mobile network in Africa.
The 5G trial is based on commercially available baseband hardware and 5G mobility is supported.
MTN has tested a range of 5G use cases and applications in its Test Lab proof of concept in South Africa, which will lead to commercial deployment in the near future.
Babak Fouladi, chief technology and information officer (CTIO) for the MTN Group, said that the company was researching how 5G can meet the needs of its customers.
“5G gives us the opportunity to rethink how our business can add further value to the lives of our customers,” he said.
MTN is currently identifying 5G use cases and applications for the mining, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing and utilities sectors.
Also speaking at the event, MTN SA CTIO Giovanni Chiarelli said that 5G would offer a new world of potential for South Africa and the continent.
“With 5G, remote healthcare through connected robots could offer world-class surgery in the most remote parts of the continent and the world. Self-driving cars could change the face of road safety, along with smart agriculture, smart mining and smart cities,” he said.
MTN boosted its coverage of 3G around South Africa to 97% in 2017, up from 95% the year prior, while the company’s 4G coverage rose 63% to 75% in 2017.
MTN said that after the rollout of 5G, it would take approximately 6- to 12 months before chipset manufacturers and electronics vendors launched devices that could cater for 5G connections.
The company said that the rollout of devices would begin with routers and then smartphones, expected to be released by 2019 or the early part of 2020.
MTN is also looking to boost 4G and 3G coverage across the country, expanding into more rural areas.