The conclusion of a roaming agreement with fellow telco Liquid Telecom has made the 5G launch possible

Back in December, Vodacom, South Africa’s largest operator, signed a roaming agreement with Liquid Telecom, gaining them access to Liquid’s 3.5 GHz spectrum. With this highly sought-after spectrum band now available to them, Vodacom has announced its intentions to launch 5G later this year.
“Having been the first network to commercially launch 5G in Africa through Vodacom Lesotho, we expect to be able to launch 5G services in South Africa this year,” said Shameel Joosub, Vodacom Group CEO. “This is possible thanks to a recent roaming agreement with Liquid Telecom, as 5G spectrum is largely unassigned in South Africa.”
Until now, both Vodacom and MTN have been running 5G pilots using spectrum which they are restricted from commercialising by the regulator. With the finalisation of this roaming agreement, Vodacom has seized the upper hand for now.
Vodacom has also announced it had revised its roaming agreement with domestic 4G provider Rain, which it hopes to use to expand its 4G capacity while they wait for the ongoing spectrum allocation delays to resolve.
Rain launched the first commercial fixed-wireless 5G network in parts of Johannesburg and Tshwane in 2019, but no company has launched a nationwide programme so far. 
Earlier this month, Liquid Telecom announced its own 5G plans for later in the year, but it seems that Vodacom may now pip them to the post for the first national commercially available 5G network.
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