Comsol has an edge over the competition in South Africa thanks to its millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum allocation, which it has previously leveraged to deploy a live 5G pilot network in Johannesburg.
The company partnered with Samsung to deliver public Wi-Fi in Soweto based on its 5G fixed-wireless access solution with peak speeds of 1.75Gbps.
Speaking to MyBroadband, Comsol head of marketing Justin Colyn said they are the only company in the country which is able to roll out a true national fixed-wireless access 5G network that lives up to the technology’s hype.
“With Comsol’s mmWave (28GHz) spectrum, Comsol is the only telco with sufficient spectrum allocation in South Africa to roll out a ‘true’ national 5G-FWA network that in effect matches the marketing hype of 5G to speed,” Colyn said.
“It is important to note that Comsol’s solution is based on fixed wireless access (FWA) with an externally-mounted antenna, such as your DStv dish.”
He also noted that Rain has started to offer externally-mounted antennas to deliver more reliable speeds.
“You would have noted that the first network operator to officially launch 5G in SA in the 3.5GHz (absorptive band) was not specific to the solution and is having to now offer externally mounted antennas.”
Competition and testing
“Other telco’s and mobile network operators (MNOs) have recently announced a roaming agreement in the 3.5GHz band as well, and it will be interesting to see whether they too will offer internal devices or opt from day one to use externally mounted antennas,” Colyn said.
“Spectrum usage and optimisation are based on science,” he added.
“Service quality can be calculated to give operators an idea of the speeds they will be able to achieve, although it is always best to physically test the real scenario’s like Comsol did in the Soweto pilot.”
He noted that during Comsol’s public Wi-Fi trial in Soweto, even older smartphones were reaching speeds of over 150Mbps.
In terms of rolling out 5G in competition with other operators, Comsol’s spectrum allocation means that any 5G network it rolls out would be a fixed-wireless access solution which could offer fibre-like speeds over smaller, dense areas – similar to the pilot in Soweto.
“Proper understanding in the market place of the different forms of 5G still needs to be properly clarified for the public so that consumers can make the right decisions as to what the correct service is they require,” Colyn said.
“Unfortunately with all the marketing hype, services are not being defined properly.”
He explained that there are three categories of 5G – low-band, mid-band, and high-band or (millimetre wave) – each of which has its own propagation characteristics.
“What consumers need to know is that there will always be a trade-off between the different bands, i.e. penetrative, absorptive, and reflective to the quality of service and speed,” Colyn said.
“The lower bands will provide services over longer distances and potentially through structures, but at the expense of speed.”
Higher bands deliver greater speeds over shorter distances with less penetration.
For example, Comsol’s 5G pilot in Soweto achieved speeds 2Gbps per subscriber with a direct line of sight and around 1Gbps with no line of sight.
“It is very important to realise that in most markets consumers require both fixed access services and mobile services,” Colyn said.
“Right now you have the MNO’s believing that mobile services are the only services that will benefit users, but with 4IR starting to mature and everything being deemed connected and intelligent within your ecosystem, you need both.”