Earlier this year, Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub announced plans for a 30% increase in investment in Vodacom’s network across South Africa. He stated that amongst other things, the money would go towards adding base stations, getting more data coverage into rural areas, deploying faster technology like LTE (also known as ‘4G’) and expanding fibre optic infrastructure to connect the base stations.
Vodacom announced last month that it had added another 293 3G sites, as well as an additional 473 LTE sites across South Africa. This represents an increase of more than 50% in LTE sites.
To add to this, 74.5% of Vodacom’s sites are now connected using self-provided high capacity transmission. The additional capacity gives Vodacom the ability to maintain superior network performance even as traffic increases in response to lower prices.
Bringing this investment story closer to home, Shane Hibbard, Managing Executive for Vodacom’s operations in Gauteng explained that: “I’m pleased to announce that in excess of R1 billion has been earmarked for network investment in Gauteng in the current financial year. Of this amount, a large portion will be used to upgrade and increase Gauteng’s 3G coverage in the major townships. By the end of March 2015 we will add more than 400 new 3G sites.
“This means that we’ll be bringing improved data services to thousands of people who currently only have voice services and limited data services. More specifically, the upgrade will increase network capacity and provide improved voice quality and mobile data speeds in areas such as Soweto, Orange Farm, Alexandra, Thembisa, Mamelodi, Atteridgeville and Soshanguve.”
On top of this, Vodacom is also in the process of growing its LTE footprint in the province. To this end around 600 new sites will be live in Gauteng by April next year. This will grow Gauteng’s current LTE coverage from 25% of sites to 38% of sites in the region.
“With 4G/LTE, video and music downloads can be accomplished in a fraction of the time of traditional 3G services. The areas we’ll be focusing on increasing LTE coverage are the business hubs and urban areas such as Pretoria, Bryanston and Rosebank as well as in the major townships.”
According to the company, while speed is a key consideration in this technology upgrade, adding capacity is also a major focus. One of Vodacom’s major strategic objectives is to sustainably reduce the cost to communicate.
“Just cutting prices without increasing capacity is a recipe for congestion and unhappy customers. To put all of this into perspective, data volumes on our network in South Africa increased around 70% over the last year. If that were road traffic, you could imagine the impact on traffic speeds and congestion. Our approach has been to significantly ramp up investment so that we can not only cater for the massive increase in data traffic on our network, but to actually provide even more new capacity. This is the only sustainable route to a lower cost to communicate,” said Hibbard.