Staff Reporter

Vodacom Limpopo Region has invested more than R460 million into the network to increase coverage and meet the need for online access. This investment aims to boost socio-economic development in the region, as Vodacom strives to bridge the digital divide by making affordable connectivity accessible to all.
“Our investment in network technology aims to expand broadband coverage and provide quality network service to our customers. As a result, we are enabling citizens across the region to reap the benefits of connectivity and not be left behind in a digitised society,” says Miguel Simoes, Managing Executive for Vodacom Limpopo Region.

From this capital expenditure, R140 million has been spent on expanding broadband coverage, with 58 new base station sites deployed, including 17 in deep rural areas, accelerating digital inclusion. This brings the region’s 3G population coverage to 99.7%, while 4G stands at 94.3%. In 2021, Vodacom Limpopo switched on 5G mobile networks in Polokwane and Thohoyandou. The region also completed 642 LTE upgrades to accommodate the 46% increase in data traffic year on year.

To prevent disruption to network services in the event of power outages, such as load shedding, Vodacom Limpopo Region invested more than R110 million in upgrading base station battery systems. In addition, Vodacom has been mitigating network challenges of theft and vandalism through the implementation of high-security infrastructure and armed response at sites across the region.

As part of the technology company’s price transformation journey, Vodacom Limpopo launched customised Just 4 You discounted voice and data offers for customers. This includes social media bundles which start from as little as R5 to larger data offers such as 10GB at R99.

“Through our efforts to reduce the cost to communicate while at the same time introduce connectivity to more areas and upgrade existing network services, we have grown our customer base by 19% in this past year. This means more than 3 million customers in the region can tap into the life-changing opportunities of digital technology, from essential services to employment and education,” says Simoes.

For the small to medium enterprise (SME) sector – the backbone of the local economy – Vodacom Limpopo tailored flexible and affordable solutions to ensure these customers could remain connected and manage their businesses, despite the uncertainty of COVID-19. To help SME customers overcome the economic challenges of the pandemic, Vodacom Limpopo provided financial support through amortised payment plans.

Bolstering youth employment in the region, Vodacom Limpopo partnered with the Wholesale and Retail Sector Education and Training Authority (W&RSETA) to provide over 200 graduates with work experience and skills training at Vodacom retail outlets and regional departments. Some of these graduates have been employed by business partners on a permanent basis.

Access to online education material and competency in using digital technology can empower young people to find career success in the digital economy. Working with the Department of Education, Vodacom Limpopo donated 100 tablets to the top matric learners in the province to help them advance their academic ambitions. In addition, 50 tablets were awarded to students in the province who are brand ambassadors for anti-bullying in schools. The region also partnered with the University of Limpopo and University of Venda to offer reduced data bundles so that almost 20 000 students were able to study remotely during the pandemic.

There is an increasing expectation on the private sector to use its core capabilities and resources to make a meaningful contribution to society. To this end, Vodacom Limpopo partnered with the provincial government to provide 25 laptops to social workers to capture and upload grant beneficiaries in rural areas, and donate 50 tablets to the Department of Health, which uses the devices to record COVID-19 vaccinations in local villages.

To further address the barriers to connectivity and drive adoption of internet-enabled devices, Vodacom Limpopo collaborated with Google South Africa last year, to migrate customers from 2G to 4G by giving away Android-powered smartphones to residents of 11 villages across the province. The region continues to accelerate ICT integration in communities with regular digital skills training programmes offered at Vodacom’s ICT centres, schools and teacher training centres in the province.

“At Vodacom, our purpose is to connect for a better future. I am delighted by the strides we have made as a region in network capabilities, customer growth and, most importantly, democratising access to the internet in this past financial year, as we support our company’s goal of harnessing technology to improve the lives of the next 100 million customers by 2025,” concludes Simoes.