Three panellists representing research, regulatory and industry took part in the February EngineerIT panel discussion on 5G and South Africa’s readiness and allied subjects. The panellists were:
- Dr Moshe Masonta (Senior CSIR researcher)
- Dr Charley Lewis (ICASA councillor)
- Ian Jansen van Rensburg (VMWare)
All three panellists said they believe that South Africa is ready for 5G. Dr Lewis said that is the short answer. “It is correct to say that there is an enormous amount of hype around 5G. It was described by one wag in the industry, some time back, as a solution in search of a problem.”
“We already have active 5G networks commercially available in the country. Rain was the first to launch a fixed wireless access network and more recently, the two dominant players in the market, Vodacom and MTN, have both launched 5G services in the country, fixed wireless access and mobile. Some of these services were launched on the back of the temporary emergency spectrum, assigned to them under the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said that GSM predicted that in 2025, some 30 million subscribers in Sub-Saharan Africa would be using 5G but this is actually a very small percentage of the market, about 5%. South Africa at the same point is predicted to have something like 73 million smart phones in the country. Of course, a very small percentage of those are likely to be 5G phones.” It is very much likely to be, in my view, a market for the affluent. So yes, simply I'd say the market is currently ready in South Africa”.
Dr Masonta said that South Africa is a unique economy with a huge gap between the poor and the rich. So while the 5G may not reach all parts of the country, just like with 4G, the country, in his opinion, is ready for 5G especially for the deployment in the sub six gigahertz frequency bands.
Talking about the 4IR revolution which will require the connectivity speeds of 5G, he said that we can expect one million devices or machines connected per square kilometre. “These will be reliable low latency and enhanced mobile broadband devices that will require some form of connectivity. 5G will fit well into the market where no fibre is available.
Ian Jansen van Rensburg said:” I think we are ready. From a VMware perspective there are a few things that come to mind. The first thing is the core infrastructure.
If you spoke to someone on the street about what they think about 5G, the answer is likely to be “a quick way of accessing the internet or a quicker way of accessing the internet from any phone or from any device”.
Like Dr. Lewis said, there are already sites in South Africa running 5G successfully, with no issues. But it's not just about the connectivity speed and the connectivity itself. It's about the whole digital infrastructure connected to 5G and the containerisation of services at the edge, the far edge and also at the customer site.”
Listen to the panel discussion