5G subscribers in South Africa are expected to reach 11 million by 2025, with a population coverage of 43%, according to a recent report by South African consultancy firm Africa Analysis.
This figure represents significant growth from the estimated 90,000 5G subscribers and 4.4% population coverage at the end of 2020.
“Following the conclusion of the upcoming spectrum auction, the market is expected to show strong growth. This will drive 5G subscribers to reach 11 million by 2025. On conclusion of the auction, we expect to see rapid 5G coverage roll out. For example, MTN, at its 5G launch, stated that it will cover 10 million people within 12 months after being awarded the spectrum,” the report states.
Africa Analysis said that another key driver will be the availability of 5G devices, specifically in the low-cost segment. Also, the launch of prepaid 5G products will enable the mobile operators to tap into the largest mobile market segment, the report added.
“Spectrum in the 3.5 GHz frequencies, to be assigned later this year, will see the most use for 5G deployment over the next five years, with close to 30,000 5G sites being commissioned. This will also account for most of the population coverage,” said Dobek Pater, director of business development at Africa Analysis.
“The remaining sites will be built using the 700 MHz and 800 MHz frequencies and the high-band frequencies, from 26 GHz and 28 GHz upwards. All three spectrum frequency bands are suitable not only for eMBB but also for massive machine-type communications (mMTC) and ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC),” the executive added.
The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) recently announced that six companies have applied to participate in the upcoming multi-band spectrum auction.
The carriers that have submitted applications are all existing operators on the market: Cell C, Rain Networks, Vodacom, Telkom, Liquid Telecom and MTN.
ICASA has made available frequencies in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 2.6 GHz, and 3.5 GHz bands for assignment to qualifying applicants.
The regulator said it aims to conduct an auction for the licensing of high-demand spectrum by no later than March 31 of this year.
In May of 2020, South African carrier Vodacom launched what it claimed to be Africa’s first live 5G mobile network. The initial 5G service was available in the cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town.
Vodacom is currently using equipment by Nordic vendor Nokia for the deployment of its 5G network.
In July, rival operator MTN announced the launch of its 5G network in the country, with the initial deployment of 100 5G sites.
The network initially covered areas of Johannesburg and Cape Town, as well as Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth.
Rival operator Rain had also launched a 5G standalone network in partnership with Chinese vendor Huawei.