5G to improve connectivity, enable new technologies in SA’s urban centres
The high costs of both acquiring 5G spectrum and laying down 5G infrastructure means that immediate huge declines in call or data costs often being mentioned in public circles are unlikely. On the other hand though, the availability of this high capacity, low latency wireless connectivity in South Africa’s major urban centres has the potential to open up the possibility of new and exciting technologies in a variety of sectors.
5G in South Africa is still at an early stage, and its wider deployment faces several challenges. While the shorter wavelength of 5G signals means that it can carry more data, it also means that the range is much shorter than that of 4G. Operators will therefore have to spend more money on additional base stations – not only for the initial cost of the equipment, but also to power the site and service it over its lifetime.
Then, due to the higher capacity of 5G, fibre connectivity remains the preferred means of backhaul between base stations, limiting the implementation of the technology to areas where fibre networks have been deployed. There are also microwave deployments for base station backhaul, but these come with their own set of challenges, including being a line-of-sight technology.
Intelligent infrastructure deployment needed
Initially, it will be the operators themselves who will see a marked difference. For over a decade, they have had to deliver services within the constraints of what spectrum they had available to them, and resorting to actions such as refarming available spectrum in order to get the most out of it.
While the spectrum auction helps address this, the high costs of 5G mean that the technology is not the sole solution to solving South Africa’s connectivity challenge and will have to be used in conjunction with other mobile generation technologies – and operators will have to place greater emphasis on how to intelligently deploy their infrastructure to better service their customers.
Given these challenges, it is highly likely that 5G deployments will be limited to South Africa’s major and secondary cities – areas where there is existing fibre network coverage, a high concentration of business and individual users, and more importantly, users with higher spending power.
True 5G is coming. Now what?
So what can they expect? These urban users who are located within close proximity to a 5G base station, could see network capacity improvements of between 10 to 20 times higher than that of current LTE networks, significantly higher speeds – with download speeds in excess of 1Gpbs – and latencies as low as 1 millisecond.
Looking to the future, 5G has shown to be a game changer in areas with significantly lower latencies as compared to 4G/LTE wireless technology, which allows for the adoption of applications that require near real-time control. These early drivers of 5G consumption are likely to be robotics, tracking and monitoring including wearables, Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous vehicles and more.
This brings to reality applications such as using augmented reality or virtual reality for education and skills development and training at all levels, including for professional development, with real-time support or guidance being provided from a central location. It also has the potential to make certain types of healthcare more widely available, for example, a surgeon can perform a surgery on a patient in a different location using robotics, enabled by this high capacity, low latency form of connectivity.
More immediately, though, those that stand to benefit the most from these improvements are business users, with an immediate benefit for those who have adopted the cloud in order to enable a remote or hybrid working environment. This includes having a much higher quality of service when using unified communications and collaboration as a service (UCaaS) tools, such as Telviva One.
Rather than be constrained to voice calling, be it through the traditional circuit switched network, or the relatively more modern voice over internet protocol (VoIP), using a UCaaS means that organisations are able to synchronise fixed line and mobile voice, video and chat on a single platform, allowing for better quality conversations between employees and with suppliers and clients.
Beyond just enabling this more cohesive experience, the shift to the cloud allows organisations to use open APIs to integrate their communications with other business systems of record, including for customer relationship management (CRM), as well as to leverage tools other cloud-based tools, including ones for regulatory complaint call recording, comprehensive telecoms expense management, and even for advanced functions such as voice sentiment analysis and more.
But, you don’t have to wait for 5G to enjoy the benefits of switching to a UCaaS. Our vendor-agnostic approach gives you the most appropriate access network solution for your needs, with the broadest choice at the best price (equivalent to going direct) and maximum supplier redundancy. Contact us today to find out how synchronised fixed-line and mobile voice, video and chat can help your business have better quality conversations with your customers, suppliers and employees.
By Rob Lith, CCO at Telviva