By Staff Writer

Vodacom, the country’s biggest mobile phone operator, is taking steps in ensuring that people in rural areas are connected and have access to fast data speeds.

The Vodafone-owned mobile phone operator said in a statement it has already achieved 99.9% urban and 99.6% of rural population voice coverage and 99.9% urban and 95.6% of rural population data coverage.

While this presents a tremendous achievement, Vodacom, said: “We are now looking at innovative ways to connect the outstanding 4.4% rural population with data coverage and 0.4% population with voice coverage.”

The rollout of data services into rural areas is caused by poor available infrastructure and the very low population density, meaning that many base stations should be built to cover the remaining rural areas.

That said, Vodacom has plans to expand network coverage for people who live in deep rural areas of South Africa to supplement the good work that its regions have done in ramping up network infrastructure outside of urban areas over many years.

Vodacom said on Wednesday that it will be bringing faster data services to tens of thousands more people living in rural areas who currently only have voice services and EDGE data services.

Th telco stated that additional investment will increase network capacity, help provide improved voice quality and will enhance mobile data speeds in rural areas.

“Network accessibility for people who reside in rural areas remains central to Vodacom’s commitment of extending network coverage to all South Africans, irrespective of class and economic status,” Andries Delport, chief technology officer for Vodacom, said.

“It is our firm view that broadband penetration has the transformative power and is an enabler for economic and social growth and as such, makes it an essential tool for empowering people in rural areas.”

A World Bank study concludes that a 10-percentage point increase in fixed broadband penetration could increase GDP growth by 1.21% in developed economies and 1.38% in developing ones.

Through its continued investment in its Rural Coverage Network Expansion Programme, Vodacom has already committed to roll out to an additional 150 small deep rural communities in this year alone.

Most of these communities are in KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo, Eastern Cape, North West, and the Free State.

“Vodacom is taking steps in ensuring that people in rural areas are connected and have access to fast data speeds so that they too become part of the mobile revolution and are able to take full advantage of its positive impacts. It can no longer be acceptable that multitudes of people in our rural areas watch the Internet Revolution from the sidelines without being part of it,” said Delport.


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