Despite Vodacom offering 95% population coverage of at least 1Mbps, spectrum licensing is seriously hampering the roll-out of the company’s 4G and LTE-A services.
Speaking at an event in Sandton on Tuesday, Vodacom CTO Andries Delport said that the number of LTE users drops significantly when compared to general coverage, with only 44% of the population able to access these higher speeds on Vodacom’s network.
He noted that this was primarily due to the large rural areas across South Africa with low population densities – some boasting as few as 4 people per square kilometre.
“We have run out of spectrum,” he said.
“If you look at the 44% rural coverage on 4G and the reason we cannot expand it, it’s because we don’t have spectrum.”
As a result, while Vodacom was able to refarm 2G and 3G network capacity to roll out LTE in the country’s largest cities, it can’t currently do so in rural areas.
Despite the spectrum limitations, Delport said that Vodacom planned to roll out more 3G coverage on its 900MHz spectrum.
He said that this, alongside the spectrum locked behind the digital TV migration process, was more suitable for rural areas than the current 2,100MHz spectrum.
He further reiterated that it was not a problem with Vodacom’s tower infrastructure or planning but simply that the company did not have the appropriate spectrum.