Vodacom’s LTE service, popularly known as 4G, had been officially switched on and is open for business, according to Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub.
Speaking today at the MyBroadband Conference 2012, Joosub said Vodacom was the first network in SA to test LTE more than two years ago and since then it has been busy upgrading base stations and its fibre-optic transmission network.
“It’s great to claim another South African first for Vodacom with the launch of LTE services to the public, and it’s even more pleasing that we’ve done this ahead of many other advanced economies around the world. South Africa has joined an exclusive club with the fastest connectivity the world has to offer,” he said.
The service will initially only be available in Johannesburg, with other cities around South Africa to follow.
The LTE service has the potential to operate at more than double the speed of any existing mobile connection currently commercially available in South Africa, and at significant multiples faster than the 2G and 3G connections common across the country.
Higher speed and lower latency translate into a more stable user experience with stutter-free video and almost instantaneous music and picture downloads.
Vodacom SA Contract customers with LTE capable devices can activate the service from today by simply calling 111 or visiting any Vodacom shop. LTE capable devices will be on sale in selected Vodacom outlets before the end of October, with priority going to existing Vodacom customers.
The LTE service will require customers with capable devices to have a 64k or 128k SIM card.
Commenting on Vodacom’s intention to become the first choice for anyone looking to connect via this new technology, Joosub said: “LTE devices are in short supply worldwide, but thanks to Vodafone’s global purchasing power we’re confident that Vodacom will have the best possible selection in stores in the very near future.”
A coverage map of where the 70 base stations capable of LTE are is available at Vodacom.co.za. Further announcements will be made with respect to the network roll-out plans in due course.
“Switching on commercial LTE services is just one step in a much bigger network transformation,” Joosub said.
With close to 9,000 base stations, Vodacom already hasby far the most extensive network in South Africa and on average delivers faster connection speeds.
According to Joosub, Vodacom’s challenge is not keeping ahead of the other operators but keeping ahead of the tidal wave of data demand.
Currently, 90 percent of Vodacom’s 3G base stations are 21.6 Mbps-enabled, and almost 80 percent 43.2 Mbps-enabled.
Vodacom hopes to to have 500 sites enabled for LTE by the end of this year.
Speaking about the factors constraining Vodacom, Joosub said: “We’ll be rolling out LTE services using existing spectrum, but to unlock the full potential of this technology and transform connectivity in South Africa, we still need additional spectrum to be released by ICASA.
“Data isn’t a commodity. Not only the speed of connections but also the quality can vary widely. We invested R7 billion in our network last year and are aiming for similar levels this year in order to deal with increasing data volumes and provide an even better experience.
“I’m convinced that Vodacom’s competitive offerings and superior network strategy will give us a clear lead in the industry.”
With the launch of Vodacom’s commercial LTE service, a whole new world of connected services becomes possible, says Josuub.
“Next generation HD video and voice services will come into their own, real-time gaming via mobile becomes possible,” he said.