South Africa’s Rain to switch off 4G network for 5G users

South Africa’s Rain to switch off 4G network for 5G users

South African fixed wireless access (FWA) operator Rain is apparently planning to switch off 4G network capabilities on its 5G packages in the near future.

This wasn’t announced directly by Rain but through a reader of the South African technology website MyBroadband. The reader had been told by a customer support agent that 4G connectivity would soon be unavailable on his 5G package. 

This may in part be because of the recent switchover of Rain’s 5G customers in Johannesburg and Pretoria from a non-standalone (NSA) to a standalone (SA) 5G network.

Non-standalone 5G uses 4G or LTE connections, as well as 5G, to provide more speed and data bandwidth. In standalone 5G networks all traffic from the 5G client is transmitted over the 5G network; there is no 4G connection.

It had been suggested that the 4G network would remain as a fallback option for 5G customers in case of problems with Rain’s 5G towers. However, there has been investment in Rain’s towers to make downtime less likely. Customers’ 5G routers’ functionality to connect to 4G is now likely to be disabled over the coming months.

As we reported in July, mobile-data-only operator Rain was among the service providers that took advantage of the temporary spectrum assigned by the regulator ICASA during the coronavirus pandemic and consequent lockdown to meet increased demand.

Rain had already deployed a 5G wireless data network in certain parts of Johannesburg and Tshwane late last year, apparently by leveraging its 4G data networking infrastructure.

The precise date for the auction of 5G spectrum in South Africa has not yet been set, although, as we reported about six weeks ago, it is expected to take place by the end of March.

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