BLOEMFONTEIN – Last week, a delegation from Vodacom Central Region was joined by community leaders and a local councillor from the Maluti-A-Phofung Municipality at an unveiling of a new 4G base station in Phuthaditjhaba, Free State. The new site located in Maluti Crescent Shopping Centre is going to deliver fast internet connectivity and connect the unconnected particularly in deep rural areas of Phuthadijhaba to ensure inclusion for all.
Phuthaditjhaba is a town in the Free State province, bordered by the province of KwaZulu-Natal to the southeast and Lesotho to the southwest. It is the formal gateway to rural QwaQwa. Service provision in the area is difficult because the land is mountainous and has posed serious challenges for the deployment of network infrastructure by local network providers.
GSMA research shows that while the availability of high-speed broadband is critical to deep rural development, deep rural communities are lagging behind in terms of broadband connectivity, excluding many from digital transformation. Vodacom has accelerated investment in townships and deep rural areas to supplement the good work that Vodacom regions have done in ramping up network infrastructure outside of urban areas over many years.
Evah Mthimunye, Managing Executive for Vodacom Central region explained: “We have embarked on a crucial network investment drive in our province as part of the rural network expansion programme so that we address coverage gaps in deep rural and township areas. The new site is going to provide faster internet speeds, greater capacity and help to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural areas of Free State province. This is part of our vision to make sure that we connect everyone whether they live in the cities, townships or in the rural areas, which requires investment.”
Base stations are the radio access network, and their key role is to connect to people’s mobile devices. The core network is more like the brains at the centre of Vodacom's infrastructure that is responsible for routing traffic and making sure that everything functions smoothly.
The region has spent over R120 million to maintain and upgrade network infrastructure across the province during the 2020 financial period. A total of 40 new sites were deployed during the 2020 financial year, the bulk of which were rolled out in deep rural areas to ensure that people in underserved parts of the country can be a part of the Internet Age and reap the economic and social benefits.
The region has spent close to R2 million deploying two new sites in Phuthadijhaba, close to R3 million on battery upgrades and site restoration due to vandalism. They plan to invest a further R5 million on additional four new sites next in the next financial period and R2.5 million on backup power for Makwane, Bluegambush, Tseki, and Mount Paul.
“We’re sending a strong message that Vodacom is taking serious steps in ensuring that people in rural areas are connected and have access to fast data speeds so that they become part of the internet revolution and take full advantage of its positive impacts,” Mthimunye concluded.