Shortly after South African mobile service provider MTN announced it’s plans to roll out Long-Term Evolution (LTE) to major cities in Africa, competitor Vodacom made comments that they too will be making the 4G technology available for the end of the year.
“We will definitely see LTE in SA before the end of the year [and] from there we will continue to grow it more each month, with more and more sites,” said newly-appointed Vodacom CEO, Shameel Joosub in a Google+ Hangout with radio personality Aki Anastasiou.
But Joosub admitted that a lot still needs to be done in order to bring the technology to fruition in South Africa.
“There isn’t available spectrum at this stage that has been given to the operators to have a full experience of LTE. For 4G to work, we need spectrum in the 1 800MHz or 800Mhz or 2,6GHz bands. We have 1 800MHz [and] we have to take it away from the current 2G network and refarm it and reutilise it for LTE,” he added.
Mobile service operator MTN announced that they will also be “refarming” spectrum from the 1 800MHz band to offer LTE, but said that it needs spectrum in 800MHz and 2,6GHz bands to successfully roll out their 4G service.
“The 800MHz band is seen as crucial for delivering 4G broadband in more outlying areas because of the greater propagation of signals in the band. However, 800MHz is currently being used by broadcasters for analogue terrestrial television and they are unlikely to vacate the band until analogue signals are switched off, possibly as late as mid-2015,” Joosub confirmed.
He concluded by saying that Vodacom has been in the process of upgrading about 75% of its current base station in order to make 4G available in the future – as well as rolling out fibre networks.
“It’s an upgrade of the older technology to a new 2G/3G site, with the capability to be 4G. At the same time, for LTE to work there has to be fibre to the base station, so there is a lot of fibre that we are rolling out. We have already rolled out over 5 000km of fibre.”
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor