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Comsol and Samsung launch 5G pilot in Soweto

Enterprise-grade wireless infrastructure provider Comsol Networks and mobile, television and appliances giant Samsung South Africa have teamed up to bring fifth-generation (5G) communications to Soweto as a pilot before commercial deployment in 2019.

Soweto’s Vilakazi street is now lit up with a live 5G pilot network, leveraging Comsol’s vast access to 28 GHz spectrum, as the duo pair up to expand into the 5G network industry.

The pilot network was officially switched on mid-September at an official launch in Soweto, with tested peak downlink speeds of 1.75 Gb/s.

The partners intend launching commercial 5G services to businesses and consumers in certain areas before the end of 2019.

“In our own way, we want to play a role in South Africa’s future as we embrace the digital economy, showcasing just what is possible with advanced 5G networks,” says Comsol CEO Iain Stevenson.

“We believe that this is another game-changing initiative for the network industry in South Africa and we will continue to collaborate with Comsol to ensure successful deployment,” adds Samsung South Africa president and CEO Sung Yoon.

The Vilakazi street pilot network draws on Samsung’s 5G solutions and Dark Fibre Africa’s fibre backhaul, while MWeb is the Internet service provider.

Stevenson explains that, while 5G broadly defines the forthcoming evolution of mobile networks over a wide range of frequencies, this specific pilot network is 5G fixed-wireless access (FWA), which promises to deliver high-quality, high-speed bandwidth services and low latency to complement existing fibre deployments.

Samsung is providing the end-to-end 5G FWA solutions, comprising 5G outdoor routers and 5G radio featuring millimetre wave radio frequency integrated circuit technologies and application-specific integrated circuit-based 5G modems.

“[The] 5G FWA uses the kind of network technology that we will come to associate with the 5G era – the likes of beamforming and a high-frequency millimetre wave spectrum such as 28 GHz – to provide an exponential performance boost to wireless broadband services,” he explains.

The 5G communication can extend to areas that remain underserved, owing to the high costs of deploying current-generation fixed or wireless networks, adds Comsol chairperson Andile Ngcaba.

“Research indicates a clear correlation between the quality and breadth of a nation’s digital infrastructure and its overall economic output,” Ngcaba explains, concluding that 5G opens up a significant opportunity to re-energise the economy and allow South Africa to become a “winner” in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.