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Vodacom Western Cape has invested over R1 billion in the last financial year to enable more communities in both the Western Cape’s urban and rural areas to reap the benefits of connectivity. This forms part of the company’s commitment to building a digitally inclusive society, where increased access to online essential services and information, employment and education platforms, digital marketplaces and much more can help to promote socio-economic empowerment and close the digital divide.
“Our purpose-led goal at Vodacom is to ensure digital inclusion for all. By expanding our network coverage and capacity and upgrading existing base station sites across the Western Cape, 3G and 4G population coverage in the region is now 99.5% and 97.6% respectively. This increase in access to connectivity has the potential to transform lives, especially in previously underserved areas in which existing inequalities continue to widen,” says Carol Hall, Vodacom Western Cape Managing Executive.
The investment includes building 38 new 3G and 4G enabled base station sites, including 16 in townships and six in rural communities, and implementing LTE capacity upgrades to over 75% of base stations in the province. Vodacom has also built 50 new 5G base station sites in the region, which are ready for the next-generation technology roll-out.
Vandalism and battery and cable theft at base station sites continue to be challenges. Typically, five to seven base stations are vandalised each week in the Western Cape. This can impact network availability, particularly during load-shedding when back-up batteries and generators are needed to minimise service disruption. To mitigate this, Vodacom Western Cape has upgraded 240 base station sites with new batteries and anti-theft infrastructure and relocated mobile generators to outlying areas to fast-track restoration in the event of power failures.
“Through ongoing evaluations on our network performance and capacity upgrade projects, we are able to manage increased loads and network faults faster, achieving more reliable restoration times. As a result, Vodacom Western Cape has the best availability, lowest call drop rate and the lowest congestion levels across all technologies compared to other regions. This forms part of Vodacom’s commitment to delivering the best network performance to customers throughout South Africa,” adds Hall.
Understanding the cost to communicate is a big issue in South Africa, Vodacom has been on a pricing transformation journey to reduce data and voice rates to drive adoption across all its markets. Last year, Vodacom Western Cape introduced WhatsApp bundles from as little as R2 on the Just4You Town platform where customers in many towns across the Western Cape can take advantage of more personalised discounted voice and data offers. Through efforts to make connectivity more affordable, Vodacom Western Cape has seen a 13% increase in data traffic and a 2.2% rise in data-active customers in the region.
Access to connectivity has been a lifeline to learners facing uncertainty in returning to schools and academic institutions due to the pandemic. Expanding connectivity, especially in townships and rural areas, in the Western Cape ensures that learners can access online resources, such as Vodacom’s zero-rated e-School platform, remotely. Helping young people stay connected further, Vodacom introduced exclusive data offers to NXT LVL customers under 25 years of age in the region. Vodacom Western Cape also provided SIM cards loaded with 5GB data and 200 airtime minutes to almost 3 000 University of Cape Town students who were affected by the fire that damaged campus buildings in April 2021.
Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) have also been affected by the events in the previous year. As this sector is critical for South Africa’s job creation and economic development, representing 98% of businesses in the country, Vodacom Western Cape has implemented support strategies to its SME customers. ‘Payment holidays’, deferring payments from customers that meet necessary requirements, and withholding penalty fees for businesses downgrading services can go a long way to help SMEs get back on their feet in the post-pandemic recovery.”
“As we continue to increase our footprint across the province, and bring our customers exciting technologies, such as Software-Defined Area Network (SD-WAN) and fibre to both business and at home, we remain committed to our social contract to connecting everyone for a better future. Our initiatives in the Western Cape highlight the important role of digital technology in enabling our country to go further together,” concludes Hall.