Comsol Networks and Samsung South Africa have lit up Vilakazi Street in Soweto with a live 5G pilot network.

“Vilakazi Street is the family home to two Nobel Prize laureates, and one of our nation’s boldest symbols of transformation and progress,” notes Comsol CEO Iain Stevenson. “In our own way, we want to play a role in South Africa’s future as we embrace the digital economy, showcasing just what’s possible with advanced 5G networks.”

“We are pleased to partner with Comsol for 5G FWA deployment in South Africa. 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,” says Sung Yoon, President and CEO of Samsung South Africa.

Stevenson says the intention is to launch commercial 5G services to businesses and consumers in certain areas before the end of 2019.

He notes that the Vilakazi Street pilot network draws on the combined strengths of a number of global and local players – Samsung’s 5G solutions, Dark Fibre Africa providing fibre backhaul and MWeb as the ISP.

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 (5G-FWA).

5G-FWA utilises the kind of network technology that we’ll come to associate with the 5G era – the likes of beamforming and a high-frequency millimeter wave spectrum such as 28GHz – to provide an exponential performance boost to wireless broadband services. The companies will demonstrate the potential of 5G-FWA, which will deliver high-quality, high-speed bandwidth services and low latency’s to complement existing fibre deployments.

For the 5G pilot network service, Samsung provides 5G End-to-End FWA solutions, consists of 5G outdoor routers (CPEs) and 5G Radio comprised of a compact mmWave RFICs technologies and ASIC-based 5G modems. Samsung has been able to bring one of the smallest 5G Radio (radio base stations) and 5G routers (CPEs) to market.

Peak downlink speeds of 1.75gigabit per second (Gbps), alongside a number of other incredible performance metrics in early-phase network tests ahead of the official switch-on were reported.

Comsol chairman Andile Ngcaba explains that the ultimate promise of 5G is the way it could extend to areas that, until now, have remained underserved due to the high costs of deploying today’s generation of fixed or wireless networks.

“Research indicates a clear correlation between the quality and breadth of a nation’s digital infrastructure, and its overall economic output,” he says. “5G represents our biggest opportunity yet: to re-energise our economy and to become a winner in the fourth industrial revolution.”