Two weeks ago MTN South Africa launched 5G in select areas in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth.
The initial roll-out was with a hundred 5G sites across these four cities, made possible by the government’s allocation of temporary spectrum, which enabled the network to trial and test.
MTN SA Chief Technology and Information Officer, Giovanni Chiarelli says for the past two years they have been actively innovating around the potential of 5G, using different bands and various vendors and across different platforms and devices.
“Our 5G strategy has been years in the making and we are confident that we have built a strong foundation to grow and support our 5G ecosystem to deliver an exceptional experience for our customers,” says Chiarelli.
MTN SA will deliver its 5G connectivity on four different spectrum bands:
- 3.5 GHz at 58 sites: This is the ideal spectrum band for 5G, known as the “Golden Band” which offers a truly world-class 5G experience with both faster speeds and low latencies. MTN has deployed sites in the 3.5 GHz band in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Bloemfontein.
- 2100MHz and 1800MHz at 35 sites: MTN SA is introducing the re-farming of some 4G spectrum to allow us to run 4G and 5G spectrum, at the same time, in the same band. This allows for easier migration of network technology from LTE to 5G. It also allows us to deploy 5G using existing spectrum assets in the absence of additional high demand spectrum. MTN has deployed 5G sites on 2100MHz in Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.
- 700MHz at 5 sites: This is an excellent band for extensive coverage, making it ideal for use for urban indoor settings and for small towns and rural coverage due to the low band frequency propagation. Small towns now covered by MTN 5G using the 700MHz include Port Alfred, Hopetown, Virginia Queenstown and Tsantsabane.
- 28GHz at 3 sites: This high frequency bandwidth, offers great speeds, making this ideal for Fixed Wireless Access 5G connectivity. This solution has been deployed in Hatfield (Pretoria), Edenvale and Durban.
The next-generation in mobile technology will allow for better virtual and augmented reality, ultra HD video streaming, doing things in real time using AI and robotics, autonomous driving and powering the Internet of Things (IoT).
5G LIVE TEST
MTN provided me with a Huawei P40 Pro handset that supports 5G and some data to test it out. I went to Bryanston where there is huge coverage in Johannesburg North and not too far from my location. I sat in my car in a parking lot and tested 5G without leaving my vehicle.
Before 5G was activated, I needed to go into mobile network settings and choose a preferred network mode. I toggled to NR/LTE/WCDMA/GSM auto; NR meaning New Radio. That was all I needed to do before I picked up 5G signal, which is active in Bryanston.
Testing @MTNza 5G on Huawei P40 Pro with a large data bundle provided by the network. This is the first time I’ve experienced 5G speeds over 500Mbps in Johannesburg.
Max DL speed achieved: 557Mbps ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/IcVyXyfg5T
— Nafisa Akabor (@nafisa1) July 13, 2020
I did a bunch of testing, and the maximum download speed I picked up was 557Mbps with the upload reaching 106Mbps. Latency was 5ms, which is overall quite impressive. I have tested 5G on Vodacom before and my MTN test results were the highest at above 500Mbps in Johannesburg.
I also downloaded a bunch of other things while I sat in my car, like a movie for offline play on Netflix in high-resolution. The Old Guard was 529MB and it took me about eight seconds to download. I also downloaded some songs for offline play on Spotify, all completed within seconds.
I also then turned the P40 Pro 5G phone into a hotspot to see what speeds I would get on my other phone. As expected, it wasn’t anywhere near 500Mbps but rather 94.2 down but a similar 105Mbps up.
It was super exciting to achieve these ridiculous speeds – fastest I’ve personally got from my testings to date and cannot wait for this to be the norm. This also means we will burn through data faster, but it doesn’t mean it uses “more” data; a common misconception. A 500MB file will still use 500MB from your data bundle, it will just get used within seconds.
I performed a lot of speed tests, literally burning the data away, but MTN SA did provide me with a large enough bundle that I’ve not even finished using, to trial it out.
When government allocates permanent spectrum via an auction later this year to mobile networks, coverage will be increased to more than the 100 that has been part of the initial rollout.
Currently, MTN is offering 5G home WiFi (average 100Mbps; max 500Mbps) and 5G mobile (average 50Mbps; max 500Mbps) on these handsets: Huawei P40, Huawei P40 Pro and LG Velvet 5G. Router options include: Huawei CPE Pro 2 and ZTE MC801A 75GB.
View the MTN coverage map here: https://www.mtn.co.za/Pages/Coverage_Map.aspx
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 14 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. ✉️ email@example.com