Johannesburg - Cellular group Vodacom [JSE:VOD]
is running tests on long-term evolution (LTE) technology that will replace current 3G standards for mobile internet connectivity.
At a demonstration on Thursday, the company displayed connectivity at speeds many times that of present 3G and ADSL connections.
CEO Pieter Uys told journalists it is not yet certain when LTE will be available to the public, although all Vodacom's towers are already compatible with the new standard.
He said that frequency would be required to run the technology on and there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the provision of this in South Africa.
However, Vodacom has demonstrated it is ready to deploy the technology.
Using this network, Vodacom showed the streaming of high definition video from YouTube and ran live tests that revealed speeds of about 60MBps on download and over 30Mbps on upload, with low latency of around 15 milliseconds to local servers in South Africa.
Vodacom chief technical officer Andries Delport said, however, that speeds could be higher with the right modem, and that Vodacom's infrastructure could technically handle 150Mbps downstream and 100Mbps upstream connections - more than 35 times faster than the top ADSL offering from Telkom [JSE:TKG]
That said, it will be some time before South Africans are able to purchase and use LTE technology due to regulatory hurdles surrounding spectrum allocation.
However, the move to digital terrestrial television (DTT) will free up spectrum currently used for analogue television broadcasts that can then be put to use for LTE and other wireless technologies.
International technology research firm Gartner said that LTE will become the de facto 4G standard for cellular networks globally, with some exceptions that will use other technologies such as WiMax.
It presented research on the technology at the Gartner Symposium in Cape Town 2009. At the event, Gartner analysts said that LTE will not see wide use even in developed markets until around 2012.