Vodacom Beats MTN As It Launches 4G LTE



Vodacom launched South Africa’s first commercial LTE service in Johannesburg yesterday, in a surprise announcement by CEO Shameel Joosub, winning the race for 4G against rival MTN.

Joosub surprised attendees at the 2012 MyBroadband Conference, announcing that Vodacom’s Long-Term Evolution network is switched on and commercially available.

In a further sensational touch, Vodacom’s Chief Technology Officer Andries Delport, and Jannie van Zyl – who rejoined Vodacom in 2010 –  went on to make the first commercial LTE call in South Africa using two Samsung Galaxy S3 phones in front on onlookers.

Jossub announced that the next generation service is already live in 70 sites – for now, only in Johannesburg – but promised that the company would have 150 sites live by the end of October, with up to 500 sites available for commercial use by the end of the year.

Vodacom has launched its commercial 4G network using re-farmed 1 ,800Mhz spectrum, however the CEO noted that extra spectrum would need to be added in order to unlock the full potential of the new technology.

Vodacom has been seen in a battle with competitor MTN in a race to be the first company to bring LTE technology to the South African commercial market.  Both companies had previously announced that they would be rolling out LTE networks by the end of 2012, but today’s launch was unexpected – and sees Vodacom pip MTN to the post in this exciting move.

“Vodacom was the first network in SA to test LTE more than two years ago, and since then we’ve been busy upgrading base stations and our fibre-optic transmission network in preparation for today,” Joosub told the conference.  He added: “It’s great to claim another South African first for Vodacom with the launch of LTE services to the public, and it’s even more pleasing that we’ve done this ahead of many other advanced economies around the world.”

Handset providers have also been hurrying to produce top-end handsets with 4G capabilities, and get them on the market in time for LTE launches.  Samsung has clearly won that race – with the Vodacom team producing Galaxy S3 phones in their launch.  However, on the note of handsets, Joosub also spoke up, assuring potential users that a range of selections will be available to Vodacom customers: “LTE devices are in short supply world-wide, but thanks to Vodafone’s global purchasing power we’re confident that Vodacom will have the best possible selection in stores in the very near future.”