Pan-African operator Vodacom said that Vodacom Central Region (VCR) extended its coverage with 40 new sites, driving inclusive connectivity across the Northern Cape and Free State in South Africa.
The South African mobile communications company has invested ZAR 181 million (USD 12 million) in the 2021/2022 financial year to increase network coverage, capacity and perform battery upgrades as part of its purpose-led goal of driving sustainable, inclusive connectivity. This brings investment into the region over the last three years to ZAR 550 million (USD 36 million).
"The deployment includes connecting villages in parts of Northern Cape and Free State provinces that had been without network connectivity since the early 1990s, ushering in a new era of digital inclusion for the people living in these areas," said a company press release.
Part of Vodacom's investment in the Region for the last financial year was earmarked for the installation of new 3G and 4G enabled base-station sites in 25 urban centres and in 15 rural areas. The Region launched its first live 5G network footprint in the Northern Cape province in September 2021 extending coverage for the region as part of Vodacom’s commitment to connecting the next digital billion, ensuring that no one is left behind.
Delivering connectivity to these provinces is crucial, especially considering the latest figures from Stats SA: in 2019, only 5.4% of households in the Free State and less than 6% in the Northern Cape had access to the internet at home.
“The result of our network roll-out programme is that thousands of citizens in these provinces have now become active participants in our increasingly digitised society,” said Evah Mthimunye, Vodacom Central Region Managing Executive.
Within South Africa’s households, Stats SA also noted that a mere 1.2% of those based in rural areas had online access at home. As such, a key focus for Vodacom was to deepen connectivity within South Africa’s rural communities, with the additional installations bringing the total number of rural sites up to 545 within the Free State and Northern Cape.
By December, online traffic in the region had seen a year-on-year increase of 60.2%, demonstrating the demand for online access and the success of VCR’s measures to meet this need. To support this surge in traffic, Vodacom also boosted the capacity of its networks, focusing on high-volume areas such as Bloemfontein, Kimberly, and Kathu.
The cost to communicate remains a big issue in South Africa. Vodacom has been on a pricing transformation journey to reduce data and voice rates to drive adoption across all its markets.