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Vodacom injecting R500m into Western Cape network to increase capacity and uptime

29th July 2022

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Telecommunications group Vodacom aims to spend more than R500-million in the Western Cape to grow coverage reach, increase capacity and improve network uptime across the province this year.

The investment will enable the region to expand reliable Internet connectivity to urban, deep rural areas and townships that have had no or poor connectivity.

“The R500-million will be used in the current financial year for investment in the Vodacom mobile network,” says Vodacom Western Cape managing executive Carol Hall, noting that some of the investment will be allocated to expanding fourth-generation (4G) capacity across 530 sites in the region, as almost 90% of all the company’s data traffic is carried on 4G technology.

According to Hall, Vodacom’s network investment of more than R1.5-billion in the past three years in the Western Cape has allowed the operator to switch on 38 new sites and upgrade over 75% of its existing 1 659 base stations with 4G capacity last year.

“Ongoing investments have provided 98% of the Western Cape’s population with third-generation coverage, with 96% of the region’s citizens enjoying 4G coverage.”

Last year, the group built 16 sites in townships and six in rural towns and deep rural areas across the province, with the current investment enabling a further nine sites to be built in deep rural areas.

To date, 450 base stations provide coverage to rural areas, with 247 connecting townships in the province.

“Those most at risk of being digitally and financially excluded without the benefit of connectivity are largely in rural areas, which is why we have focused our energy on expanding coverage to these communities,” says Hall, noting that this contributes to closing the digital divide, providing every citizen equal access to essential online resources such as employment, healthcare and education platforms.

Fifth-generation (5G) connectivity is another focus area for Vodacom Western Cape’s network investment programme.

Vodacom currently has 49 5G base stations across the region, with plans to triple this footprint this year.

“In addition, 5G connectivity will deliver even greater benefits, supporting more widespread use of technologies like the Internet of Things and Software-Defined Wide-Area Networking. For businesses, in particular, 5G has the potential to unlock data-driven productivity that will fuel our economy.”

Meanwhile, Vodacom Western Cape is also injecting funds into ensuring customers remained connected during load-shedding, particularly with State-owned power utility Eskom’s Stage 6 cuts recently being implemented, resulting in longer, more frequent power outages.

Vodacom recently installed power backup batteries at 240 sites in the Western Cape and plans to invest R250-million into upgrading the backup power on more than a third of the network’s base stations to ease the detrimental effect of load-shedding on the uptime of the network.

“Vandalism and theft of batteries and cables at our base stations compound the problem of service disruption. Unfortunately, already 138 of our sites have been vandalised since January this year, with damages totalling just under R7-million,” says Hall.

“Alarms and cameras are put in place to alert Vodacom to any illegal activity, with an armed-response contract already leading to 14 successful arrests this year.”

Hall points out that Vodacom has also relocated some of its mobile generators to its outlying service areas to fast-track restoration in the event of power failures due to load-shedding or vandalism.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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