5G is getting traction in South Africa. Rain was the first operator to launch 5G fixed-wireless access in the country, at the end of 2019. Vodacom followed suit in May 2020 and MTN was the latest to join the race in South Africa in June 2020. Vodacom and MTN launched both 5G FWA and eMBB services in the country. Telcos are planning to use 5G to help bridge the digital divide in the country.

On the back of the recent developments and telcos’ strategies to further expand coverage in the country, GlobalData expects that 5G subscribers penetration of the population in the country will reach circa 10% by 2025.

The launch by Vodacom and MTN comes at important and unprecedented times of Covid-19. The launch was, in part, possible due to the regulator assigning temporary spectrum (until the end of November 2020) to telcos to mitigate network congestion.

The congestion was caused by the surge in traffic because people work from home and access entertainment and education resources during the pandemic. For example, Vodacom experienced 40% traffic increase on mobile networks and 250% traffic increase on fixed networks during the lockdown period.

MTN has launched 5G in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth and several other smaller towns.

For a wider roll out, MTN is planning to focus on dynamic spectrum sharing to overcome the shortage of dedicated 5G spectrum. The release of permanent spectrum would further accelerate the uptake in the country.

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