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MBOMBELA – Vodacom Mpumalanga will invest R600 million into the network this financial year, to accelerate coverage reach and network capacity, and provide access to affordable, high-quality connectivity. This will meet the increasing demand for internet services, while driving digital inclusion throughout the region.
“In the past two years, Vodacom Mpumalanga has spent R1 billion on network upgrades and solutions to support our transition from telecommunications operator to leading technology provider. Through this investment we have been able to deploy more sites, upgrade our current base stations and expand connectivity through the roll out of next generation technology and fibre, particularly to deep rural areas of the province, whose residents have not had access to transformative online services,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga.
Driving data inclusivity
From this year’s R600 million capital expenditure, R334 million will go to network upgrades and the deployment of new base station sites, with R256 million allocated for microwave and fibre transmission projects.
“We have seen a 37% increase in data traffic in the region year-on-year, with 67% of all Vodacom devices in Mpumalanga able to perform data services. It is clear that we are a data-centric network, with over 85% of this data traffic generated on LTE. It is therefore imperative that we invest in network capacity and coverage to continue to deliver our exceptional network experience and expand the reach of our services to customers seeking high quality connectivity,” adds Jiyane.
To continue to grow access to the internet in the region, Vodacom Mpumalanga has launched data pricing solutions that provide greater value to customers. This includes Just4You and Just4YourTown offers, based on customers’ behaviour and location, such as 1GB for R19 valid for seven days, 100 minutes for R10 for one day, and 30 minutes and 150MB for R5 valid for a day. The network also offers prepaid LTE for 30 days, from 10GB for R99, 20GB for R149, to 40GB for R199.
With 30% of the region’s customers still using 2G-enabled mobile phones, Vodacom Mpumalanga has also partnered with Google to lower the entry price for smart devices, introduced Easy2Pay and Payjoy, which are prepaid instalment payment solutions for devices, and launched Good as New, a second-hand iconic device project.
“We understand that our customers are experiencing tough economic conditions, with rising fuel prices, food inflation and interest rates affecting the cost of living. We hope to ease this burden through our affordable data solutions and initiatives for smartphone ownership, while increasing access to connectivity,” says Jiyane.
Leveraging the increase in spectrum
In March this year, Vodacom acquired a 110MHz spectrum portfolio, worth over R5 billion, which has allowed the company to increase coverage and capacity for LTE and 5G. Vodacom Mpumalanga was the first mobile network to roll out 5G in the province, with plans to double 5G coverage by the end of the 2023 financial year.
“The new spectrum has allowed us to add much-needed capacity and expand next generation technology in the region. In addition, the newly acquired 10MHZ in the 700MHz band is helping us to address rural coverage and indoor penetration challenges, improving the network experience in areas of KwaMhlanga, Wakkerstroom, Dullstroom and Mbombela, for example. We have earmarked R85 million this year to ensure other communities are able to reap the same benefits,” explains Jiyane.
Overcoming network disruptions
To maintain network availability and call set up success rate in the event of a power disruption, such as load-shedding, Vodacom Mpumalanga invested R111 million last year in battery upgrades at base station sites, with a further R58 million allocated to back-up energy solutions this financial year.
“It is not just load-shedding which has an impact on our network availability and experience. Vandalism and theft also remain our biggest concerns when it comes to keeping our customers connected. In the first three months of this financial year, we recorded over 300 incidents, with batteries and cables targeted. Although we have implemented security measures, such as early warning technology and armed response at our base station sites, communities are our best deterrent in reducing this criminal activity and we encourage them to report any suspicious activity,” says Jiyane.
Connecting for a better digital future
Recognising the importance of advancing access to digital platforms and skills from an early age to ensure no one is left behind in the digital age, Vodacom Mpumalanga has opened up learning opportunities on the zero-rated e-School portal. The digital platform offers access to curriculum-aligned content for learners in Grades R to 12, with no data charge for customers on the network.
The region is helping to close the gender gap in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields through Vodacom’s #CodeLikeAGirl programme, in which girls between the ages of 14 and 18 receive coding training. In July this year in Mpumalanga, 60 girls were exposed to the knowledge of computer languages, robotics and development programmes while learning valuable life skills that will encourage them to follow a career path in technology.
“At the core of our regional activity is our ambition to change lives for the better by democratising access to connectivity. Through our continued investments in our network, innovative price transformation journey and efforts to address social-economic issues, we are helping to build an inclusive digital future,” concludes Jiyane.