On Wednesday this week Vodacom won the race to become the first South African mobile network operator to launch an LTE (Long-term Evolution) service.
On Wednesday this week Vodacom won the race to become the first South African mobile network operator to launch an LTE (Long-term Evolution) service. LTE is a 4G (fourth-generation) technology, which offers mobile internet speeds of up to 90 megabits per second (download) and 25mbps (upload) – more than double what is achievable with the most advanced 3G connectivity.
Telkom’s 8ta is set to launch an LTE trial period in November, while MTN and Cell C have both promised an LTE offering by the end of the year.
However, Cell C’s chief commercial officer Jose Dos Santos said shortly after Vodacom’s LTE launch on Wednesday that countrywide LTE availability would only be a reality in 2015. Better LTE than never!
So is LTE worth making a fuss about right now?
Firstly, for now it’s only available in parts of Johannesburg – the rest of the country will have to wait, possibly years, for ICASA and the network operators to reach a suitable agreement regarding spectrum allocation.
Secondly, you’ll need a compatible device, and there aren’t too many of those around right now. The recently-launched iPhone 5 is one such device.
Thirdly, it’s all very well being able to download whatever you want at dizzying speeds, but mobile internet costs remain very high in comparison to fixed-line (ADSL).
For example, if you’re using the Vodacom LTE network at 90mbps (which equates to 11.25 megabytes per second) and you’re paying the standard prepaid out-of-bundle rate of R2/meg, you’ll be paying over R20 a second – ouch! Leave it running at full speed for just a minute and you’ll be in for an obscene R1 200.
And even if you have a 20gig data bundle (which costs R3 200), at that speed you’ll use it up in under half an hour. Whoa!
So clearly our beloved network operators will need to come up with some competitive pricing structures if LTE is to gain any kind of traction in the market. As yet there’s been no mention of LTE data bundle pricing from Vodacom.
Meanwhile a different kind of high-speed internet connectivity launched in South Africa in May – this service flies at 850 kilometres per hour! Mango airlines is now offering in-flight Wi-Fi on all its flights, so Facebookers can tend to their Farmville flocks and businesspeople can tame their email inboxes while enlarging their carbon footprints.
To celebrate their entire fleet now being Wi-Fi enabled, Mango (through G-Connect) is offering the service for just R1 per flight, but only until the end of the October promo period, after which pricing will likely revert to R50/flight or R1/minute.
In-flight internet is sweet – just make sure the guy next to you doesn’t see you googling things like ‘how to build a bomb with an overpriced chicken sandwich, a Diet Coke, a roll of Mentos and a barf bag’.