Every October, Gallagher Convention Centre plays host to the annual MyBroadband Conference and Expo. The overarching focus of the conference shared one striking similarity to the 2018 edition – 5G. While progress in the South African 5G sphere has been slow, the emphasis and urgency placed on what the next steps should be was unmistakable. Our team attended the conference to learn more.

The speaking hall was packed with thousands of delegates, keen to hear what the top brass from the country’s leading telecommunications companies had to say. Godfrey Motsa – the CEO of MTN SA – opened the conference with some inspiring words on the state of South Africa’s mobile network infrastructure. Reshaad Sha – Liquid Telecom CEO – followed up with an overview of how fibre rollout across the country is booming, with Liquid Telecom boasting a 99.999% uptime that is unheard of in the South African fibre industry.

Next up was Professor Brian Armstrong – Chair of digital business at Wits Business School. Armstrong painted a spectacular picture of the gap in the market for the rollout of fibre networks into lower-income households, and demonstrated how profitable that gap would be to fibre providers, should they choose to focus on entering those markets. While fibre may seem like it is taking over the networking infrastructure of South African households and businesses, FTTX Council (a member of the Fibre Council Global Alliance (FCGA)) states:, “as at the end of June 2019, about 1.5 million endpoints have been passed, with a total of over 600,000 connections, comprising of over 496,000 homes and over 114,000 business premises”. Considering the fact that there are 14.5 million households throughout South Africa, these numbers show that not even 5% of these households are connected with fibre.

Continuing the day of talks, Phathizwe Malinga from SqwidNet and Fuad Siddiqui from Bell Labs Consulting spoke about their companies and how they play a role in the local South African telecommunications industry. This was followed by an interesting panel discussion with some of the country’s top executives, focusing on where they believe more attention should be placed with regards to both fibre and 5G rollout.

During lunch, the Connect Mobile team explored what the expo floor had to offer. The lead sponsors of the event, MTN and Liquid Telecom, and the title sponsors Vodacom, all had fibre and 5G focused expo stands, as expected. While most of the stands were regulars from previous years keeping the formula the same, hardware giant Huawei placed focus on Mesh networks for the home and boasted modern Wi-Fi extenders and boosters that are leading in their field. Miro also featured the new-to-South Africa Amazon doorbell-webcam brand Ring at their stand, highlighting smart technology for the home.

After lunch, the standout speaker 1, Principal Consultant of Business and Network Consulting for Huawei Carrier Business Group, talked about how he believes 5G is an inevitability in South Africa and drew comparisons to his hometown Singapore. While these comparisons seemed a far cry from our local environment, it drove home the need for widespread fibre rollout to support exponential growth in popularity of 5G.

All-in-all, MyBroadband delivered another successful conference and expo that provided a breeding ground for new ideas and fostering business relationships between companies within the telecommunications sector and more.