Vodacom Mpumalanga Region will spend over R450 million on its network in the current financial year to ensure the delivery of best-in-class coverage and customer service while expanding connectivity throughout the region. This significant investment includes deploying more sites in urban, township and rural areas and increasing network capacity and resilience, particularly during loadshedding.
In achieving our purpose-led goal of ensuring digital inclusion for all, we are investing in network upgrades and deploying new sites to increase access to reliable connectivity. By keeping our customers connected to essential online services, from education and healthcare to financial services, we are helping to empower businesses, communities and individuals, especially in underserved areas of the region, and addressing the digital divide.Monde Ngcukana, Managing Executive, Vodacom Mpumalanga Region
Of the capital expenditure, R333 million will be invested in site upgrades and deployment, including switching on 98 new sites. The region plans to spend R46 million on its access network, with a large focus on modernising both radio and transmission network infrastructure and the continuous expansion of LTE capacity and footprint, with 94% of its base station sites upgraded to LTE.
Through this ongoing investment, Vodacom Mpumalanga’s 3G population coverage is now at 99.62% and we have achieved 4G population coverage of 99.14%. We have also increased our 5G sites to 109, reaching a population coverage of 29.81% and with 13% of data traffic now carried by the 5G layer at these sites. As a result, we are excited about enhancing our services and experiences to our customers through increased high-speed, reliable connectivity.Monde Ngcukana, Managing Executive, Vodacom Mpumalanga Region
Vodacom Mpumalanga is actively working to maximise network reliability during loadshedding. This includes spending R15 million over the past financial year on energy projects in the region, such as upgrading standby batteries on 500 sites, upgrading power infrastructure on 300 sites and performing loadshedding-related power optimisation activities on over 88% of sites. This financial year, R117 million is allocated for the region to increase static standby generators and continue with a battery refresh programme that ensures end-of-life infrastructure is replaced timeously.
Base stations of local network providers are increasingly being targeted for theft and vandalism. The region reports an average of 87 criminal incidents at its base stations per month, with up to 93 sites experiencing vandalism, and an average of 66 batteries stolen monthly. In response to these issues, Vodacom Mpumalanga has taken several security measures including installing concrete containers or steel vaults for critical equipment and implementing remote monitoring, alarm systems and armed response units. In addition, aluminium is being substituted for copper in certain equipment to deter copper theft.
Vandalism and theft remain some of our biggest concerns when it comes to keeping our customers connected. The impact of these incidents has been severe, affecting both our network infrastructure and the communities we serve by disrupting services. While we have upped the fight against criminal activity at our base station sites, the number one line of defence is the local community. Therefore, we urge anyone who sees suspicious activity around our base stations to report it to the police by calling our toll-free number on 082 241 9952 or SAPS on 10111.Monde Ngcukana, Managing Executive, Vodacom Mpumalanga Region
The cost to communicate is a critical issue for customers, who are facing economic pressures. Vodacom Mpumalanga introduced discounted voice and data offers such as personalised Just 4 You, Just 4 Your Town bundles for residents in certain towns from as little as R5 and Just Prepaid LTE to make connectivity affordable. There has been an 8% rise in data-active customers and data traffic has grown by 48% in the province.
As part of Vodacom Mpumalanga’s commitment to making a positive impact on the community it serves, the region was involved in several initiatives addressing education, digital literacy, community well-being, and gender equality this past year. For example, on Mandela Day, Ehlanzeni County visited a Vodacom-supported ICT Centre at KaNyamazane Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre and invited 30 Grade 12 learners to participate in a digital skills development course, while Nkangala County and Gert Sibande County visited Run’s Future Kids ECD centre and Moolman Primary School to revitalise and replant the gardens.
The region also donated 130 hygiene packages to the Greater Rape Intervention Programme, an organisation that supports survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) in Mpumalanga and executed an internal food drive for Children in Distress that directly benefited 230 individuals.
To foster digital inclusion and break gender stereotypes, Vodacom Mpumalanga hosted a #Code Like a Girl boot camp for 36 schoolgirls from Sofunda Secondary School and Mkhulu Secondary School in Middelburg. Participants learn coding and other digital skills while developing confidence to pursue careers in the traditionally male-dominated field of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
At Vodacom, we believe in using our capabilities to drive change and address societal concerns. Through our various projects, initiatives, investments, and strategic partnerships with both the public and the private sector, we aim to connect everyone for a better future.Monde Ngcukana, Managing Executive, Vodacom Mpumalanga Region