GQEBERHA – Vodacom Eastern Cape region will invest over R500 million into the network and power backup upgrades across the province during the 2023/2024 financial year. This significant investment into the network will help the region expand connectivity in deep rural areas and townships that had no connectivity before. This will enable hundreds of thousands of people to participate in the digital economy for the first time. This coupled with a concerted effort to drive down the cost to communicate through innovative platforms such as Just4U and Just4YouTown has lowered voice and data rates across the province and enabled scores of people to be part of the digital economy underway.
The bulk of the capital expenditure will be used to deploy new base stations sites, improve network capacity, perform power backup upgrades due to power outages, and roll out 5G to accelerate digital inclusion. As a result, 106 new deep rural sites will be built in local municipalities such as Buffalo City, Matatiele, Mbashe, Mnquma, Nelson Mandela Bay, Ngqushwa, Ngquza Hill, Ntabankulu, Port St Johns, to mention a few. LTE capacity expansions will be performed in 396 sites and 17 new urban sites will be deployed across the province. The Region switched on live 5G mobile network in three major municipal districts in the Eastern Cape in 2021 and plans to accelerate this deployment by rolling out over 50 new 5G sites.Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Eastern Cape region commented:
“We have always maintained that our mobile networks are our key differentiator, and as a result, we continue to invest more money to expand networks to give our customers exceptional service. It is important for us to invest in the next generation of communication technology to give our customers access to networks that provide faster speeds and support the digital economy. Therefore, our accelerated investment in 5G in this financial year is in line with our commitment to connect the unconnected and will ultimately help the region bridge the digital divide between the urban and rural areas of the province.”
“It can no longer be acceptable for people in rural dwellers to watch the internet revolution from the sidelines, they need to be part of it and reap the associated economic benefits. Therefore, we will be rolling out over 100 new deep rural sites across the province to connect the unconnected. We mean serious business when we say that rural and township areas should have the same network experience such as the people who reside in urban areas are accustomed,” adds Jiyane.
To help address the cost to communicate, the region adopted the use of personalised platforms, through a segment of one approach where they provide personalised offers based on customer needs and usage. For instance, our Just4U and Just4YouTown platforms have attracted great demand, with such offers as J4U – 60 MIN VC + 150MB =1 DAY @ R5, 1 GB Facebook for 7 days @ R10, 100min VC @ R10 FOR 1 Day, Prepaid LTE – 2G @ R49, 10GB @ R99 and NXTLVL – 20G @ R49.
Jiyane added: “I am delighted about the strides we’ve made as a business to make data prices and smart devices more affordable, truly democratising the access to the internet and leading to a growth in the number of smart devices in our region. Data traffic grew 40% across the province due to attractive rates and our network resilience. Our customer consideration scores, including NPS, have been on the rise, with customers scoring us better on measures such as value for money as they see the overall value we provide, from service to network to price.”
The latest biannual network report by the independent benchmarking organisation umlaut, part of Accenture, has ranked Vodacom ‘Best in Test’ ahead of competitors and scored the highest for reliability, data services and crowdsourced quality. This is testament to Vodacom’s commitment to deliver unparalleled connectivity to its valued customers and reaffirms its purpose of connecting South Africans to a better future.
Working with the Department of Basic Education, the region’s enterprise business unit rolled out ICT platform in government schools to support access to quality education and donated R2m to help the provincial government deal with severe drought. As part of the transversal contract, the region helped to digitise over 2,000 health community workers, connected over 120 000 smart meters in several municipalities and supported close to 3000 government vehicles with IoT solutions that helped to keep costs down and improved efficiencies.
Critically, there is a growing expectation for big businesses to serve a social purpose, and to use their resources and core capabilities to make a meaningful contribution to poor communities. In this regard, the region continues to accelerate its investment in education through ICT centres in schools, Teacher Centres, Schools of Excellence, e-School platform, establishing Early Childhood Development centres to improve education in the early years and by rolling out Vodacom’s #CodeLikeAGirl programme aimed at developing coding skills among girls. Critically, Vodacom is providing the KwaNobuhle Lovelife Youth Centre which attracts more than 5000 youths, uncapped internet wireless connectivity to connect the youth at the centre for free.