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MTN launches 5G network across major cities in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG, June 30 (Reuters) – Mobile operator MTN Group launched its 5G network across major cities in South Africa on Tuesday, joining Vodacom Group and Rain in the race to expand fifth-generation technology in the country.

MTN said it used additional temporary spectrum, assigned by South Africa’s telecoms regulator in April to tackle high demand for data during a lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The company has held 5G trials and tests in the last two years with telecoms equipment makers including Sweden’s Ericsson and China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and ZTE Corp , MTN South Africa’s CEO, Godfrey Motsa, told Reuters.

“In the Western Cape, ZTE is building there, (in) Gauteng it’s Huawei building here and the Free State region and Northern Cape region it’s Ericsson,” Motsa said, referring to provinces where equipment providers are working for the company.

Ericsson built MTN’s core network, he said.

South Africa has allowed telecom companies to choose their network vendors provided they meet various requirements, including security.

MTN said it launched 5G services across 100 network towers in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and several smaller towns.

The rollout of the 5G network will be ramped up to more sites once the government allocates permanent spectrum through a planned auction later this year, Motsa said at the launch event.

MTN aims to secure a commercial agreement with the government to convert the temporary spectrum into a permanent one for a fee.

5G is essentially fifth-generation mobile network technology which offers faster data speeds and lower latency or response time. It allows several devices to be connected at one go and in future could help in running unmanned cars and seamless communication and interconnectivity between smart devices, a process commonly called the internet of things.

MTN has partnered with Australia’s Emerge Gaming to allow people to play cloud games on their Huawei P40 Pro phone using MTN’s 5G network, in order to attract more consumers, especially video games’ enthusiasts. (Reporting by Nqobile Dludla; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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