Liquid Intelligent Technologies will use its cellular network capacity to build a 5G network aimed at industries such as manufacturing and mining, reports the Sunday Times.

In March, the company bid R111 million to acquire 4 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum in the 3,500 MHz band.

Spectrum is the raw network capacity cellular operators use for mobile devices to communicate with their towers.

After years of delays, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) held an auction for some of this precious wireless network capacity.

Liquid’s spectrum purchase during the auction brings its holdings in the 3,500 MHz band to a round 60 MHz.

Although this is a substantial amount of spectrum in a single band, the International Telecommunications Union has recommended that operators have 100 MHz of contiguous spectrum in 3,500 MHz for 5G.

The rest of the unassigned frequencies in this band were bought by Telkom (22 MHz), Cell C (10 MHz), MTN (40 MHz), and Vodacom (10 MHz).

Liquid CEO Deon Geyser told the Sunday Times that they deliberately bid for a small portion of the spectrum.

Geyser said Liquid has a different business model from players such as Vodacom, MTN, and Telkom.

“While wireless is important, we have a fibre and data centre strategy,” Geyser said.

He said they see the substantial investment other operators made into spectrum as an opportunity.

Icasa raised just under R14.5 billion for National Treasury with the auction.

Vodacom bid almost R5.4 billion for 110 MHz of spectrum, MTN bid nearly R5.2 billion for 100MHz, and Telkom bid R2.1 billion for 44 MHz.

Liquid sees this as an opportunity for growth as they provide fibre to towers throughout South Africa, Geyser said.

For their own 5G network, Geyser said they see an opportunity in manufacturing plants, ports, and mining — particularly in automation.

Geyser said Liquid has no plans to re-enter the consumer market directly as it would require considerable investments in a product distribution platform.