Mobile operators refrain from investing in the deployment of new rural network sites. During the festive season, when rural folks who work in cities return home, networks get overloaded or operators end up developing short-term solutions.
This is understandable.
Operators try to maximise their revenues by deploying every possible new network site that can deliver incremental revenues.
However, Vodacom seems to be changing its strategy or seeing more value in deploying new network sites in rural areas of South Africa.
The Vodafone-owned company is planning to deploy 20 new base stations in urban areas and 18 new base stations in rural areas in the Eastern Cape.
South Africa’s biggest mobile phone by subscribers says it will also invest in the modernisation of 80 sites in urban areas to unlock additional network capacity and higher download speeds.
Additionally, the region will perform 4G capacity upgrades on 102 urban towers and on 48 rural towers, deploy new LTE on 27 rural towers and implement 3G capacity upgrades on 148 urban towers and 268 on rural towers. Critically, the region will install 90+ new broadband Microwave connections to rural towers.
This exercise will cost Vodacom R200 million.
The R200 million planned spend is in addition to the R250 million already spent on deploying network infrastructure in deep rural areas of the province over the last two years.
The Vodacom Eastern Region network stretches from Albertinia in the Western Cape and covers all of the Eastern Cape, including Kokstad in KwaZulu Natal province.
The Eastern Cape province, at 168 966 km is taking up 13.9% of SA’s land area and because of its vastness; it poses serious challenges for local network mobile providers to connect but Vodacom is making great strides.
“At Vodacom we believe investing in our network ensures that we deliver best-in-class coverage and customer service, not only to urban areas, but to people who dwell in township and deep rural areas as well, so they are well positioned to take advantage of the benefits of the Digital Revolution,” Mpumelelo Khumalo, managing executive for Vodacom Eastern Cape Region said.
He added that the upgrades will increase network capacity and this will help Vodacom to provide customers with super-fast internet speeds, great quality voice and reduce dropped calls.
“In particular, the investment will ensure that many people, who only had access to 2G and 3G, will be able to access internet for the first time through 4G/LTE networks at a time when data traffic growth since lockdown stands at 50%.”
Furthermore, Vodacom says the investment will help to minimise the impact of load-shedding on its network. For instance, 70% of all towers will receive replacement back-up power sources, renewal of rectifiers on 400+ sites to stabilise power supply and invest in multiple static standby generators.