South African carrier Vodacom has launched what it claims to be Africa’s first live 5G mobile network, the telco said in a statement.

The initial 5G service is initially available in the cities of Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town, with additional cities to be reached in the future.

Vodacom said that this network will support both mobile and fixed wireless services and is currently available on 20 live 5G sites.

Vodacom was recently assigned temporary spectrum by South Africa’s watchdog ICASA for the duration of the national state of disaster due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including one 50 megahertz channel in the 3.5 GHz band, which has been used to fast-track the carrier’s 5G launch. Vodacom also claimed to be the first operator to activate temporary spectrum in South Africa.

The carrier noted that the deployment of 5G will help Vodacom manage the 40% increase in mobile network traffic and the 250% increase in fixed traffic experienced during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“Vodacom’s 5G launch in South Africa comes at an important time as it will help us improve our network efficiency during the COVID-19 national state of disaster,” said Shameel Joosub, Vodacom Group CEO. “During this difficult and unprecedented period, we are proud to offer world class network technology to South Africa, and all of its associated benefits, as we provide an essential service to keep the country connected. This is largely due to the allocation of temporary spectrum by ICASA which has already mitigated the network congestion we have experienced since the start of the lockdown period.”

south africa 5G

Vodacom also highlighted that the current 5G network equipment deployed also operates in the same frequency bands which are expected to be permanently assigned through an auction later this year.

For its mobile 5G offering, Vodacom has announced the availability of the LG V50 5G smartphone, while for Fixed Wireless Access, the carrier will offer the Huawei 5G CPE PRO routers.

In February, Vodacom Chief Executive Shameel Joosub said that the company was aiming to launch commercial 5G services during 2020 by using a network being built by rival operator Liquid Telecom.

Liquid Telecom had previously announced it was building a wholesale 5G network in South Africa that would be available from early 2020. Liquid Telecom, which will use its own spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band, said it would allow other operators to use this infrastructure for the provision of 5G technology. Liquid added that its 5G service would be available in major South African cities.

Vodacom, which is majority owned by U.K. telecom group Vodafone, previously said it would manage the 5G network on behalf of Liquid Telecom. The telco did not provide further details about the locations where the 5G offering will be commercially available.

Mobile operators in South Africa have complained about delays by the local government to award spectrum for the provision of 5G technology. The watchdog had said that the process and timing for the award of 5G spectrum license was expected to be announced in April this year.