According to MyBroadband.co.za South Africa’s second national operator (SNO) Neotel is currently testing a number of technology platforms including Long Term Evolution (LTE), with the aim of improving its broadband services. Chief technology officer Angus Hay told the website: ‘We are trialling various technologies including LTE … as part of the continual improvement of broadband services to our customers. LTE is regarded globally as the successor technology to all current 3G technologies, including CDMA’. Although the spectrum band being utilised by Neotel in the trial has not been confirmed, TeleGeography notes that Neotel was awarded (LTE-suitable) spectrum in the 800MHz band for its fixed wireless access (FWA) networks in March 2007; the telco currently offers a CDMA2000 1xEV-DO FWA service dubbed ‘NeoConnect’. Elsewhere, the company offers WiMAX in the 3.5GHz band. Hay told MyBroadband that Neotel’s trial network currently covers the Midrand area.
Earlier this week the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) announced that it had postponed the licensing of LTE-suitable spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands after the country’s main players successfully argued that its draft spectrum assignment plan was released prematurely. However, ICASA’s slow progress has failed to dissuade telcos from trialling LTE using existing spectrum. Vodacom was the first company to trial LTE in South Africa, demonstrating speeds exceeding 100Mbps, also in Midrand. Elsewhere, mobile giant MTN has been the most notable cellco to throw its weight behind LTE, with 100 base stations deployed in the Gauteng province, as part of an extensive July 2011 pilot project using re-farmed 1800MHz spectrum. Most recently, in October 2011 Wireless Business Solutions (WBS), the parent company of South African wireless broadband provider iBurst, announced plans to roll out an LTE network by mid-2012. However, As it stands Neotel is the only South African telco currently in possession of 800MHz spectrum, although Sentech holds 50MHz worth of unused spectrum in the 2.6GHz band, which the government hopes to seize prior to ICASA’s long-delayed frequency auction.