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Vodacom awaiting for greenlight to launch 5G commercial use in Africa

The Vodacom Durban July took place over the weekend and while the event is usually about glitz and glamour, Vodacom, LG, and Nokia took the chance to make it a bit geeky.

At the Durban July, one of South Africa’s biggest horseracing events, Vodacom, partnering with infrastructure provider Nokia and smartphone maker LG, showcased “Africa’s first live, 5G data session on a commercially ready 5G mobile phone and network.”

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The trio performed the demo using the LG V50 ThinQ 5G smartphone and was carried using Nokia’s AirScale 5G radio network tech.

The Nokia Airscale 5G radio network solution uses an active antenna, with 128 antenna elements (64 receive and 64 transmit) to deliver the latest 5G mMIMO (Massive Multiple Input Multiple Output) technology.

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It also supports the latest 5G new radio (NR) technology and can support concurrent 4G and 5G operation on the same radio.

“We are proud to be part of this Africa-first feat with Vodacom, and are committed to supporting the operator in bringing 5G services to the nation,” said Nokia’s Deon Geyser.

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Andries Delport, Vodacom chief technology officer, said that Vodacom has once again demonstrated what is possible when using 5G technology as they did at the Vodacom Durban July by demonstrating Africa’s first live, 5G data session on a commercially ready 5G mobile phone and network.

“Although we are still awaiting the allocation of 5G spectrum to launch the technology in South Africa, the future truly is exciting when we consider what we might be able to achieve once the requisite spectrum becomes available, ” he added.

The LG V50 ThinQ is one of the first commercially 5G-ready smartphones in the world. It has a 6,4-inch OLED FullVision display which uses LG OLED TV technology. The smartphone also has five high-resolution cameras, two at the front and three at the rear. The LG V50 uses AI technology to recommend photo-enhancing filters.

The smartphone features a Qualcomm SDM855 Snapdragon 855 chipset – the world’s first commercial 5G mobile platform. The chipset features the Snapdragon X50 5G modem which supports download speeds of up to 5 gigabits per second.

The Snapdragon X50 5G modem, paired with up to 4 QTM052 mmWave antenna modules, supports advanced mobility features like beam forming, beam steering, and beam tracking.

“LG is very focused on expanding its leadership in 5G by introducing leading-edge devices and forging customer-oriented collaborations with carrier partners such as Vodacom,” says Deon Prinsloo, mobile GM at LG South Africa. “The introduction of 5G in South Africa is sure to improve people’s lives, and will contribute to jobs, entrepreneurship, and create overall economic opportunities.

“Strong collaborations will be required to accelerate 5G commercialization on the continent, and LG is ready to be a key player when 5G service becomes widely available in the region. Once the spectrum is allocated, LG will introduce a range of leading 5G mobile phones ready to usher in a new era of connectivity in Africa.”

Vodacom CTO Andries Delport at the 2019 Durban July 5G demo.

Vodacom’s CTO Andries Delport, however, noted that the company’s still “awaiting the allocation of 5G spectrum to launch the technology in South Africa.”

The live demonstration used a non-standalone network architecture with dual connectivity between the 4G and 5G networks, and which was standardised in 3GPP Release 15. Vodacom also used its live transport and core network elements which have been upgraded for 5G readiness including cloud core technology.

For the purposes of the demonstration at the Vodacom Durban July, Vodacom was granted a temporary spectrum license by Icasa (Independent Communications Authority of South Africa) of 100 MHz in the C-band spectrum range (3.5 GHz range).

This spectrum band is well suited to providing good 5G coverage, unlike higher frequency bands such as mmWave (26 GHz and above) which have poor indoor penetration characteristics.

Vodacom believes this is the first live demonstration of a commercially-ready 5G smartphone working on a commercially ready 5G network in Africa, unlike previous demonstrations which used fixed 5G routers as the customer device.

Although, this isn’t the first time that Vodacom has showcased 5G at the Durban July. The firm showcased the technology at the race last year when it streamed the race at 4K in 360 degrees.

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Feritter Owich
Feritter Owich
I am the mobile editor here. I cover apps, smartphones and anything else related to consumer electronics. Reach me at [email protected]

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