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MTN launches 5G network in South Africa

(Image credit: Pixabay)

MTN has launched the initial phase of its 5G network in South Africa, joining Vodacom and Rain as providers of the service in the country.

"We're rolling out 5G across South Africa, and soon you'll have 5G coverage everywhere you go," the company said on its website.

However, unless you're a keen early adopter, it is unlikely this roll-out will mean very much as the coverage areas are small and there are few options when it comes to 5G enabled phones in the country. 

This is a big win for companies with offices in the coverage areas though as connecting to this superior network, when few are using it, means greater efficiency and speeds for work. 

Let's take a look at the coverage in-depth, the cost and what phones you can get in the country if you're wanting to take the leap into 5G.

Coverage 

For the launch, only certain areas are covered by MTN's network in the Western Cape, Gauteng and Free State. The company plans to expand this offering as adoption picks up. 

This does mean that unless you live or work in one of these areas at the moment, there is little reason to jump in on the 5G offerings.

The choice of areas are interesting as most are suburban rather than city centres. Overseas networks often began in the city centres and spread out, however, this isn't the case in South Africa. 

  • Western Cape: Blouberg 
  • Gauteng: Bryanston and Honeydew
  • Free State:  Universitas

5G speeds 

MTN has said their 5G users can expect speeds of 100Mbps and peak speeds of 500Mbps on their home Wi-Fi and average speeds of 50Mbps and peak speeds of 500Mbps for 5G mobile. 

This is a significant jump, especially in mobile average 4G speeds. South Africa, according to a survey done by OpenSignal last year, has pretty good 4G speeds when compared to most of the world. Especially when it comes to fluctuation during the day. 

They calculated 17.5Mbps to 24.5Mbps download speeds during the slowest to fastest times of the day in the country. This, when compared to what MTN is offering, is a snail's pace even though it is considered pretty good for 4G. 

5G Data plans 

Data in South Africa is always a touchy topic as prices are high and very few deals make up for this inflation.

Since 5G is so new, it is quite surprising to see somewhat decent deals from MTN. It is also clear they are trying to convince you to stick with them for longer, as prices get cheaper on a longer contract. 

For the average South African this is still out of their price range, which is not surprising. But those who are invested, or businesses who consider the cost worth it for the speed, might not find it too high.

  • 75GB: 24-month R699, 36-month R499 
  • 100GB: 24-month R799, 36-month R599
  • 200GB: 24-month R1099, 36-month R849
  • 300GB: 24-month R1199, 36-month R949
  • 400GB: 24-month R1399, 36-month R1099
  • 500GB: 24-month R1599, 36-month R1299 

Phones and routers on offer 

Another big drawback is the limited options when it comes to phones. Anyone who doesn't already have these will need to trade-in their current 4G-only phone for something that can connect to the network. 

This means limited options and, in the case of MTN's offerings, a choice between Huawei and LG. Currently, you can only choose between the Huawei P40, Huawei P40 Pro and LG Velvet 5G phones. 

Routers are similarly few and far between, but MTN is offering the Huawei CPE Pro 2 5G, Huawei MC801A 5G, and ZTE 6878 routers from July 1.