BARCELONA -- MWC19 -- South Africa's alternative data-only operator Rain has started building out a 5G network using technology from Chinese vendor Huawei Technologies and Finnish network equipment specialist Nokia.
The operator last year launched 4G services on its recently built network and even built a single 5G-enabled site in Cape Town ahead of last November's AfricaCom event. (See South African Operator Rain Deploys Nokia's 5G Tech and Rain Launches Data Only 4G Network in South Africa.)
Now, along with Huawei and Nokia, Rain is boasting a commercial 5G network deployment, although currently it doesn't have all it needs, most notably end-user devices, to offer commercial services using the technology.
With Huawei, Rain has deployed 5G radio access network technology in an unspecified number of locations in Johannesburg using its 3.6GHz spectrum.
Willem Roos, CEO at Rain, stated: "The network will provide fiber-like speeds without the installation complexities, time delays and cost of laying fiber in under-serviced areas."
Quite when that will be is not known: 5G consumer devices have only just been unveiled and are expensive. (For example, see Samsung Announces First 5G Phones, Offers Few Other Details and Huawei gets in on the 5G foldy phone game.)
In the meantime, the network operator will work with Huawei to build upon its existing 4G network and spectrum to develop a 5G offer. Jacqueline Shi, president of Huawei's cloud core network product Line, noted: "We are committed to working with operators and partners to build future-oriented networks for smooth evolution and migration for the maximum value out of their investment and the best user experience."
Paul Harris, Rain chairman, and Jacqueline Shi, president of Huawei's cloud core network product line, celebrate their 5G developments.
But the operator isn't only working with the Chinese vendor, of course. In Cape Town, Rain's initial 5G site was built with technology from Nokia, and the operator continues to expand its next-generation network with the Finnish vendor.
Now Rain is set to deploy a range of 5G-enabling technologies from Nokia, including optical fronthaul transport products and its Fixed Wireless Access FastMile 5G Gateway, which sits at the user's premises to receive the wireless broadband connection from the wide area network and connect to end-user devices.
"Together with Nokia, we are busy building this country's first 5G network within a challenging time frame to advance the rollout of 5G services," noted Roos. "As 'Rain falls equally on everyone,' we relentlessly pursue providing affordable high-speed broadband to everyone in South Africa. With the 5G network, we will be able to achieve exactly this and be a catalyst for the socio-economic development in the country. Nokia is at the forefront of 5G technology globally and based on our experience we are confident that its end-to-end innovative products and world-class professional services will help us bring the best possible 5G network to the people of South Africa."
Executives from Rain and Nokia sign their 5G agreement. Back row, from left to right: Paul Harris, chairman of Rain; and Rajeev Suri, president and CEO, Nokia. Front row, from left to right: Brandon Leigh, director, Rain; and Amr K. El Leithy, head of the Middle East and Africa market, Nokia.
So, there's certainly healthy competition between Huawei and Nokia to be Rain's best networking buddy.
What will be interesting to follow is just how 5G will play out in a market such as South Africa, though it seems clear that, initially, fixed wireless broadband (as an alternative to running new fiber to consumer or enterprise premises) will be a strong initial focus. (See 5G in Africa: Too Early?.)
And, of course, Rain is not alone in exploring the potential for 5G tech deployments in South Africa. (See MTN, Ericsson, Netstar Claim 5G First for South Africa, Comsol & Samsung Turn On 5G Pilot in South Africa, Vodacom Joins Race to Prove 5G's Value and MTN, Ericsson Take 5G on the Road.)
— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading for Connecting Africa.