Vodacom investing R1 billion to boost network capacity – and combat load shedding

 ·21 Sep 2023

Mobile operator Vodacom says it will be investing R1 billion this financial year into boosting network capacity in KwaZulu-Natal – particularly in deep rural areas.

From the investment, R700 million will go towards projects for radio access network, network capacity and upgrades, with R173 million allocated to improving core network infrastructure.

The region plans to modernise 429 base station sites and expand LTE capacity to 774 sites in the current financial year.

“Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal’s 4G population coverage is standing at 95.8%. We are rolling out 23 new urban sites and 129 deep rural sites across the region this financial year to expand this reach and drive digital inclusion, especially in underserved areas of the province,” it said.

“In addition, we now have circa 200 sites on 5G, with plans to switch on another 122 within the financial year.”

The group said that widespread load shedding continues to have a negative impact on its network in the region – to address this, it is investing R235 million into energy projects, including the procurement of 68 generators to add to an existing fleet of over 196 and increasing base station site power standby time to a minimum of four hours.

“These upgrades will improve network capacity and availability, particularly during stage 4-6 load shedding,” it said.

The R1 billion investment is on top of other initiatives and regional funding announced by the group.

In August, the group announced that it would invest R570 million into its network in the Western Cape to improve quality and capacity, while also extending its network coverage in both urban and rural areas.

This investment was also split between network capacity funding and energy projects (R470 million / R100 million, respectively).

At the end of August the group also announced a first-ever virtual wheeling arrangement with Eskom, which would allow the group to secure power from independent power producers in various locations to keep its towers and base stations operational.

Vodacom said it has spent more than R4 billion on backup power solutions for its South African operations – R300 million of which was spent in the past financial year alone on operational costs such as diesel for generators.

“Not only is this a massive financial burden, it also poses a significant challenge for the company to achieve its broader environmental ambitions,” it said.

Read: Vodacom signs major ‘virtual wheeling’ deal with Eskom – as its load shedding bill tops R4 billion

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