Vodacom prepares network for 5G while spectrum auction is pending

08 August 2018 | Natalie Bannerman

Cover

Vodacom, the South African operator partly owned by Vodafone, is investing in its network in preparation for 5G once the auction of additional spectrum goes ahead.

“We are modernising our network, including radio and transmission,” said Andries Delport (pictured), Vodacom’s chief technology officer, to Bloomberg. “Accessing spectrum remains a critical factor in further improving network quality and coverage, and reducing data costs.”

The news indicates that operators expect fresh movement with the government spectrum auction after the first one was dropped 2016, a decision on a possible auction is expected before the end of the year. According to reports the government is looking for a way to increase minority ownership in the sector as part of an initiative to address the inequalities and has proposed that operators share networks.

The country’s biggest operators like Vodacom and MTN are instead proposing a model that still enables them to bid for critical spectrum they require while smaller operators are allocated portions of it to share.

Vodacom is investing 4.6 billion rand (£346 million) to upgrade and expand its network throughout the year, with a targeted spend of as much as 14% of revenue on the project over the next three years.

In addition, the company recently announced plans to launch 200 new network sites across South Africa throughout 2018, as part of its rural coverage acceleration programme.

The initiative aims to target locations near schools, hospitals, police stations and transport hubs to provide better access to connectivity. The company currently has 82 sites under construction, with the majority in Kwa-Zulu Natal, the Eastern Cape, Limpopp and Mpumalanga which were selected through what it calls an ‘extensive prioritisation process.”

“Vodacom’s rural coverage acceleration programme has seen us make significant progress in connecting villages which have never experienced the various economic and societal benefits of cell phone connectivity,” said Delport.

The news comes after the company extended its South African rural coverage by 101 villages in this year alone.