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Vodacom is spending R300 million this financial year into the Limpopo network which will go towards expanding broadband coverage in remote areas of the province that have not had access to internet services, and help to drive inclusion for all.
“We are very excited about our network investment for the Limpopo region this financial year, as we aim to ensure that all our customers will benefit from a quality network experience, particularly in rural areas. Expanding access to connectivity forms part of our commitment to building an inclusive digital future while assisting with stimulating socio-economic growth in the province,” says Ridwaan Soomra, Managing Executive of Vodacom Limpopo Region.
Expanding broadband coverage
The bulk of the capex will be used to modernise the existing radio network, construct new deep rural towers, and enhance transmission, including increasing fibre rollout and improving backup power. The investment will also help to provide additional capacity to support the region’s data traffic growth, which rose by 17.4% year-on-year.
The region now has more than 1 557 network sites, of which 97% provide 3G and 92% provide 4G, which is a 10.8% increase in broadband coverage year-on-year. As the first mobile operator to roll out 5G in Limpopo in Polokwane and Thohonyandou last year, Vodacom plans to double 5G coverage in the region by the end of the 2023 financial year.
“By expanding our 5G footprint, we are supporting the government’s 4IR objectives and accelerating the transition to more digital-based services to take the country forward. This 5G investment will also allow our business clients to launch bespoke solutions that are dependent on high speed and low latency of next generation technology to meet the demands of a digitalised future,” adds Soomra.
Overcoming network disruptions
To ensure that customers continue to stay connected during network challenges such as load-shedding and site vandalism, Vodacom Limpopo has strengthened security and upgraded back-up power solutions across sites in the province. More than R100 million has been invested in overcoming power cuts, with the generator fleet increasing by 35%, generator repair spend now 170% more than originally allocated, and R8 million going on fuel to keep generators running in the event of an outage.
“Unfortunately, we have seen a 40% increase in vandalism incidents over the past financial year, which has led us to spend in excess of R2.5 million into vandalism repairs. These are resources which could have been better used in expanding connectivity in deep rural areas, so that more people could have access to online services. We continue to encourage communities to speak out against damage to our network infrastructure, which opens doors to participation in the digital economy,” explains Soomra.
Empowering lives through access to digital technology
Vodacom Limpopo continues to prioritise digital inclusion by bringing down the cost to communicate through affordable smartphones and Just for You data and voice offers based on personal usage and location. With these efforts, the region now has the third highest device count in the country after Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
“We not only want to provide value to customers in our products and services but empower them for a brighter tomorrow. Our zero-rated ConnectU platform provides access to life-changing opportunities, including employment, education and health services, at no data cost. Our e-school platform, for example, has 151 000 registered users in the region, who are taking advantage of online curriculum-aligned education content, while our Mum & Baby health service is assisting 181 000 parents and caregivers with essential neo-natal and post-natal advice,” adds Soomra.
Limpopo has the second highest unemployment rate in the country at just over 36%, and, therefore, supporting job creation and economic upliftment is a key focus for the region. Newly launched Get-a-Gig, now available on ConnectU, connects job seekers to work opportunities provided by Vodacom and its trade partners. In addition, Vodacom Limpopo is fostering relationships with small businesses, which are vital to the province’s economic growth. Investment into the network enables greater reach to these customers in outlying areas, increasing their access to financial services and transformative digital solutions.
“We believe in the power of digital technology to improve lives. As we look to the future, Vodacom Limpopo will continue to draw on the strength of partnerships between government, NGOs and the private sector to help fulfil our purpose. From our social contract initiatives, such as supporting youth with digital skills training, to leading innovations that create an inclusive digital economy, including our VodaPay super-app, we want to go further in this country together,” concludes Soomra.