Vodacom Group unveiled plans to launch 5G in its home market of South Africa during 2020 despite issues acquiring spectrum from the country’s regulator, while reporting increased uptake of data and mobile money during its fiscal Q3 (calendar Q4 2019).

In a trading update, CEO Shameel Joosub said the company would be able to launch 5G in South Africa due to a recently-signed roaming agreement to use Liquid Telecom’s 3.5GHz spectrum assets in 5G-suitable frequencies.

Vodacom laid claim to the launch of Africa’s first 5G network in Lesotho during August 2018 and, at the time, Joosub stated the company was ready to replicate the strategy in its home market as soon as it acquired suitable licences.

However, 5G spectrum has still not been formally assigned to operators by the country’s regulator. This leaves only those holding licences from legacy services, including Liquid Telecom, able to access the band.

Data, money growth
Elsewhere in its fiscal Q3 results statement, Vodacom revealed a 6.6 per cent year-on-year increase in group revenue to ZAR23.6 billion ($1.59 billion). Net profit is not disclosed on a quarterly basis.

Growth in South Africa was attributed to an increase in its customer base and uptake of data services following price cuts and seasonal promotions.

For its International division, Joosub said the company produced “solid results on the back of strong demand for data and m-Pesa services”. It added 550,000 mobile money users across its markets, excluding Safaricom in Kenya and South Africa, to reach a base of 14.8 million by end-December.

At the same point, more than 37 per cent of  mobile users covered by its International division also used its mobile money platform.

Vodacom noted revenue increases attributed to m-Pesa had been “supported by higher transactions per customer as we continue to introduce new services such as micro-loans, merchant payments and interconnection with banks and other operators.”