More Industry InsightsSouth Africa’s mobile network operators reveal big plans for 5G rollouts

October 18, 2022by myles0

Three out of South Africa’s five major cellular operators have 5G networks and are rapidly growing their coverage, while a fourth could be launching its 5G services before the end of the month.

Vodacom, MTN, and Rain are the three mobile networks currently offering 5G in South Africa.

Rain was the first to launch 5G in 2019, initially offering a single uncapped fixed wireless access product for R999 per month with a free-to-use router.

It has since added two cheaper options that, until recently, capped their speeds at 25Mbps and 50Mbps and limited video streaming quality over the connections.

At the start of October 2022, Rain adjusted these packages, increasing their prices while simultaneously increasing their speeds to 30Mbps and 60Mbps, and dropping the streaming quality restrictions.

In May 2020, Vodacom became the first operator to introduce mobile 5G connectivity in South Africa, with MTN following a month later with a larger footprint.

Vodacom and MTN both now offer mobile and fixed wireless access 5G services.

Industry regulator Icasa’s auction of additional radio frequency spectrum in March has allowed these operators to grow their networks and active 5G devices.

We asked these operators, Telkom, and Cell C, about their 5G progress and strategies.

Vodacom’s 5G coverage plans

A Vodacom spokesperson told MyBroadband that it now offered 5G coverage in all nine provinces and provided a list of 273 suburbs with 5G signal.

“This list continues to evolve as a result of the conclusion of the temporary spectrum allocated by Icasa during Covid-19 as well as the migration to Vodacom’s spectrum acquired during the Icasa auction process, which required requisite network reconfiguration,” the spokesperson said.

They also said Vodacom had covered 13.5% of the South African population with 5G by 31 March 2022.

Vodacom does not publish the total number of 5G base stations it has in the entire country, but provided the following figures for specific regions from recent press statements:

  • KwaZulu-Natal — 200, plans to add 61 more by March 2023
  • Western Cape — 49, plans to triple sites by March 2023
  • Free State and Northern Cape — Plans to double sites to 58
  • Eastern Cape — Available in 30 urban areas and two metros
  • Limpopo — Available in two towns, plans to double sites

The spokesperson said Vodacom considers relevant use cases and consumer and corporate demands to drive its 5G coverage rollout.

“We have committed to spending a total of R11 billion in our current financial year on network infrastructure, which will include the continued densification of our 5G network,” they said.

Vodacom recently measured a speed of 2.4Gbps on its 5G network, with MyBroadband able to log a speed test of 1.8Gbps in the same location.

The operator has also seen growing popularity of mid-tier 5G smartphones. 

“As far as 5G packages are concerned, we are working on a number of exciting 5G propositions which will launch in the not-too-distant future,” the spokesperson added. 

MTN has over 1,400 5G sites in South Africa

MTN SA executive for corporate affairs and sustainability, Jacqui O’Sullivan, told MyBroadband the operator had over 1,400 5G sites in South Africa.

“We are currently covering 20% of the South African population and are on track to grow this to 25% in the near term,” O’Sullivan said.

The operator provided MyBroadband with a list of 108 locations — including large cities and small towns — where it had 5G coverage.

O’Sullivan said MTN would extend its 5G population coverage yearly in correlation with market demands.

“The rollout is aligned to areas where we have data growth which requires additional capacity in the form of 4G and 5G capacity,” O’Sullivan explained.

“While 5G coverage is being rolled out nationally, the other key element is to grow the 5G device ecosystem in the network.”

“One of our key focus for the next coming months is to drive customer education on 5G devices and its benefits.”

O’Sullivan said MTN had seen “good traction” in 5G smartphone adoption on its network, including in mid-tier devices that would accelerate uptake.

Aside from mobile 5G, MTN currently offers uncapped 5G packages in its MyMTN Home line-up and plans to expand its 5G offerings to cater to prepaid customers.


Telkom did not comment on its 5G rollout, but the operator is rumoured to launch its 5G network within the next few weeks.

A company spokesperson recently told MyBroadband the operator would share more information on its 5G plans during an event scheduled for the end of October.

It was unclear whether this would be the launch of its 5G network or an announcement of a future launch date.

Telkom has been conducting 5G trials at a limited number of sites since at least February 2021, with its latest communicated number of sites at 60.

We recently also observed a speed test on the Telkom 5G network recorded with the MyBroadband Speed Test app.


Rain was the first to launch 5G products in South Africa in 2019 and now offers uncapped wireless broadband using the technology in all the country’s major metros and 60 smaller towns.

It added 16 of these locations in 2021, including Polokwane, Rustenburg, Klerksdorp, Potchefstroom, Bloemfontein, Nelspruit, and Stellenbosch.

It accelerated its rollout schedule in 2022 to include over 50 regions. Rain has already completed some of these, while others will be added during the rest of 2022 and 2023.

Among these are several townships like Thembisa, Diepsloot, Mamelodi, Soweto, Sebokeng, and Khayelitsha, as well as towns like Kimberley, Ermelo, Heidelburg, Nigel, and Daveyton.

Rain 5G is still only available on a fixed-location basis, with the service restricted to specific routers allowed on the network.

Subscribers can’t place a Rain 5G SIM in a smartphone like they can on Vodacom or MTN’s mobile networks.

However, Rain does plan to offer mobile 5G products within the next year.

If Rain’s approach to mobile 5G pricing is similar to its 4G products, it could provide a much more affordable alternative to the traditional players.

Cell C

Cell C is decommissioning its radio access network (RAN) and migrating all its customers to a virtual RAN on Vodacom and MTN’s networks.

Therefore, it will not operate its own 5G base stations but rely on roaming agreements with these operators to offer customers 5G.

Cell C chief technology officer Schal Visser said the company would continue to engage with its infrastructure partners to ensure a “quality network” to support services on its recently-acquired spectrum.

“Our intention is to also include 5G services in the future,” Visser said.

The operator provided no further details on a finite plan or timelines for such a rollout.

Source: MyBroadband

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