Vodacom, MTN hit massive 1Gbps broadband speed

Mobile network base station. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Mobile network base station. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - Mobile operators Vodacom [JSE:VOD] and MTN [JSE:MTN] have re-asserted their position as senior mobile operators with a high speed mobile broadband test.

Both operators achieved speeds of 1Gbps (Gigabit per second) in an indoor mobile test to demonstrate true 4G network speeds in SA.

“Breaking 1Gbps represents an important milestone for LTE network speeds in South Africa as it shows what can be achieved by combining adequate spectrum with the latest technology,” said Andries Delport, chief technology officer at Vodacom.

The announcement comes on the heels of a Cell C test that hit 600Mbps (megabits per second) announced on Wednesday.

While the speeds are tests, they demonstrate true 4G connectivity.

Data demand

READ: Data spurs on solid Vodacom revenue growth

According the International Telecommunications Union, 4G speed is defined as 100Mbps and 5G at 20Gbps.

In preparation for the test Vodacom aggregated its licenced and unlicensed spectrum bands in combination with small cell technology.

MTN, which employed a similar strategy, said that it employed Huawei’s small cell Lampsite product which allowed LTE deployment in 5GHz unlicensed band.

“MTN has been upgrading base stations and our fibre-optic transmission network in preparation for this launch. It’s great to claim another South African first for MTN with the trial toward building a 4.5G network. It is even more pleasing that we’ve done this ahead of many other advanced economies around the world,” said MTN acting chief technology officer Krishna Chetty.

Data demand is SA is high. Vodacom on Monday reported 1.1 billion data bundle sales and 18.7 million active data customers for the year ended March 31.

In 2015, data revenue at MTN jumped 30.2% to R33bn at MTN with traffic increasing 108.5%.

However, the lack of additional spectrum could hurt operator’s ability to expand data and lower costs.

“The success of this LTE-Advanced deployment is a giant leap forward for mobile broadband technology in South Africa, and demonstrates the potential that mobile broadband technologies can achieve if additional spectrum is allocated to mobile network operators,” MTN said.

Universal broadband

READ: Cwele: Broadband more important than revenue

But despite the government’s push toward universal broadband, Cabinet has not yet approval the department of telecommunications and postal services white paper on mobile broadband policy.

Siyabonga Cwele, who heads the ministry, has indicated his support for additional network spectrum.

“Those networks will need larger quantum or chance of spectrum so they can support this Internet of Things,” Cwele told Fin24.

However, he said the government was not looking to profit from the spectrum and insisted that new networks would have to be shared to accelerate access to broadband services.

“We are proposing that there should be sharing of these networks. There’s no need to duplicate these networks – we can share the very same capacity as a nation,” Cwele said.

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