MBOMBELA – Vodacom Mpumalanga region invested over R450 million into the network and power backup upgrades across the province during the 2021/2022 financial year. This significant investment into the network has helped the region expand connectivity in deep rural areas and townships that had no connectivity before. This has enabled hundreds of thousands of people to participate in the digital economy for the first time. This coupled with a concerted effort to drive down the cost to communicate through innovative platforms such as Just4U and Just4YouTown, has lowered voice and data rates across the province.
The bulk of the capital expenditure was used to deploy new base stations sites, improve network capacity, perform power backup upgrades due to power outages, and roll out 5G to accelerate digital inclusion. As a result, over 20 new deep rural sites in areas such as Amersfoort and Thuthukani were switched on. Vodacom became the first network to launch 5G in Mpumalanga in Mbombela, and continues to extend coverage throughout the province, including Ermelo, Secunda, Leslie and Emalahleni. The region has exceeded its 5G rollout targets by 200%.
Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga region commented:
"I am pleased with the positive results the team has produced under difficult market conditions during the FY 2021/2022. Our mobile networks are our key differentiator, and as a result, we continue to invest more money to expand networks to give our customers exceptional service. We became the first mobile network to launch 5G in Mpumalanga and continue to accelerate our rollout. This is a full demonstration of our commitment to invest in the latest network technology infrastructure to give our customers access to networks that provide fast speeds. Data traffic grew by 25% and voice 6% the highest in Vodacom SA due to attractive rates and network rollout. As a result, the region became the leader in voice network performance in SA as measured by in-house monthly benchmarking and network net promoter score (NPS)."
Cost to communicate remains a big issue in emerging markets like South Africa. As part of its strategy to drive digital inclusion for all, over the past three years, Vodacom has been cutting data and voice rates to drive adoption across all its market. To drive prices down, the region adopted the use of personalised platforms, adopting a segment of one approach where they provide personalised offers based on customer needs and usage. For instance, our Just4U and Just4YouTown platforms have shown a great adoption figure, with such offers as 1GB valid for 7days at R19, a 76% discount, or even 1GB WhatsApp + 500MB FB for only R35, representing the best social offer in the region.
Jiyane added: "I am delighted of the strides we’ve made as a business to make data prices and smart devices more affordable, truly democratising the access to the internet and leading to a growth of over 18% in the number of smart devices in our region. Our customer consideration scores, including NPS, have been on the rise, with customers scoring us better on measures such as value for money as they see the overall value we provide, from service to network to price. "
Working with the Department of Higher Education, the region’s enterprise business unit launched Edu bundles to support varsity students during the pandemic. The significantly reduced bundles enabled students across the province to access educational content remotely and not miss out on lecturers. The technology powering Edu bundles is not only helping students access academic content but is also helping to improve learners’ digital literacy, a key competence in this digital society.
Critically, there is a growing expectation for big businesses to serve a social purpose, and to use their resources and core capabilities to make a meaningful contribution to poor communities. In this regard, last August, the region, in partnership with Google South Africa gave away Android powered smartphones at no cost to scores of people in villages of Mbuzini, Mangweni, Stenborg and Magogeni in Nkomazi. This forms part of Vodacom’s continued efforts to reduce the digital divide and offer many who reside in deep rural communities in Mpumalanga province access to the internet for the first time. The region continues to accelerate its investment in education through ICT centres in schools, Teacher Centres, Schools of Excellence, e-School platform, establishing Early Childhood Development centres to improve education in the early years and by rolling out Vodacom’s #CodeLikeAGirl programme aimed at developing coding skills among girls.