How South Africa can prepare to embrace 5G
8 November 2019
Today, all the talk is around 5G and how we can effectively deploy it. At this year’s MyBroadband Conference, Principal Consultant at Huawei Carrier Nigel Bruin – one of the speakers at the conference – touched on this topic and discussed what needs to be done for South Africa to successfully embrace 5G.
Bruin outlined the practical ways in which ICT companies can make South Africa more successful in terms of consumer and industry.
He also spoke about some of the ways South Africa can overcome the challenges that it currently faces, and some of the practical things that we can learn from other regions so that we can get things moving.
“We really want to see South Africa grow and develop its own economy and strength,” said Bruin. Bruin said 5G was designed specifically for next-generation services that require low latency, high bandwidth, high reliability or resilience.
These next-generation requirements are very software driven, so these services are going to be all about meeting the SLAs, and the experience of the particular application. Meeting SLAs is also the function of a good 5G network.
“How we will embrace it will be a combination of developing and deploying a high-quality network and then building the software applications on top of that to make it a reality,” said Bruin.
According to Bruin, all that Huawei is really involved in when it comes to 5G is building infrastructure. “5G is the base, it’s going to be the bottom of an eco-system of a very large stack of value, and that’s what we need to get started in South Africa,” said Bruin.
At some point South Africa needs to start decommissioning previous-generation network technologies – 2G, 3G, and 4G – as we can’t carry all these services forward, said Bruin.
“2G is a fantastic technology and people are still using it very effectively, which is why we need a plan to migrate people up to 4G and to start adopting 5G. This is not a recommendation, there’s really only two choices – you can remove 2G, or remove 3G,” said Bruin.
When looking at what people are doing in other countries, 3G is the technology that is being removed more often. This is because 3G networks are being converted to 4G, whereas 2G is the bottom layer.
For many, 2G is still very valuable and effective, whereas 3G has a lot of valuable spectrum, which can be converted into 4G, and that’s where we need to be – 4G-strong with the addition of 5G on top,” added Bruin.
Challenges hindering 5G adoption, and the solution
The challenges in South Africa of moving into 5G mostly revolve around spectrum. “We can’t do anything without spectrum, so we need to move on from that, as it’s just part of what we need to have a joined-up plan,” said Bruin.
According to Bruin, South Africa needs government, industry, and technology partners to work together to make this a reality. “We’re going to need more base sites, upgrades, and access to deploy fibre to solve these problems. We just need these political and collective will to adopt them here in South Africa, and then get going,” Bruin concluded.