BLOEMFONTEN - Vodacom Central Region, encompassing Free State and Northern Cape, is spending R340 million this financial year on expanding broadband coverage in deep rural areas, upgrading base station sites and network resilience. This investment will drive inclusive digital access across the region, as part of the network’s commitment in ensuring connectivity for all.
“Our network rollout programme last year brought internet to many communities in the region for the first time. This financial year we want to build on this achievement by extending broadband coverage and investing in network upgrades to increase access to connectivity. As a result, this can provide more opportunities for socio-economic empowerment, especially in remote and rural areas, and help to close the digital divide,” says Evah Mthimunye, Managing Executive: Vodacom Central Region.
Part of the investment includes adding new 3G, 4G and 5G enabled sites in urban areas and seventeen in deep rural areas to further population coverage, which is already at 98.25% for 3G and 92% for 4G in the region. Vodacom Central Region also plans to triple its 5G footprint in the Northern Cape and Free State by increasing the number of 5G sites to 58.
To help overcome network challenges and manage network capacity and site vandalism, Vodacom Central Region will spend R100 million of the financial year’s capex into power upgrades at base station sites. This ensures that customers are able to stay connected during disruptions such as load-shedding and incidents of site vandalism and theft.
“We have also completed LTE capacity expansions at 760 sites. In addition to supporting the region’s 44.2% year-on-year surge in data traffic, LTE capacity is crucial, as almost 90% of this data traffic is on LTE technology,” adds Mthimunye.
In its purpose-led goal to build a digital society, Vodacom Central Region is connecting young people to jobs through Get-a Gig, which is available on the zero-rated Connect U platform. Get-a-Gig not only aims to address the high unemployment rate in the country but encourages participation in the digital economy through online access to employment opportunities, at no data cost.
Recognising the importance of digital technology as a critical educational tool, Vodacom Central Region has implemented the Virtual Classroom Solution in three schools in the Northern Cape this year: Steynville High School in Steynville, Umso High School in Colesberg, and Veritas High School in De Aar. As part of the solution’s role in bridging the digital divide, Vodacom provided over 1 800 laptops across the schools, so learners can benefit from online educational content, regardless of their socio-economic status or geographic location.
The next generation’s future is dependent on the planet’s health, which is why Vodacom Central Region is committed to reducing its environmental impact. Over and above waste collection initiatives in local communities in the Free State and Northern Cape, Vodacom has also introduced a solar project at the mobile switching centre in Bloemfontein in efforts to mitigate climate change, while rehabilitating bee hives at base station sites to maintain biodiversity.
“Connecting people for a better future underpins all that we do within our business. From our network investments to our Social Contract and environmental commitments, Vodacom Central Region aims to improve the lives of the customers and communities we serve through the power of digital technology,” concludes Mthimunye.