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Vodacom spends R500m to ease lockdown network congestion

Samuel Mungadze
By Samuel Mungadze, Africa editor
Johannesburg, 15 Apr 2020
Vodacom Group chief technology officer Andries Delport.
Vodacom Group chief technology officer Andries Delport.

Vodacom is investing over R500 million in an infrastructure upgrade to help ease traffic congestion on its network during the COVID-19 lockdown period.

The company says the investment will be spent within the next two months to add network capacity during COVID-19 and increase network resilience during the period, as well as help cope with any possible load-shedding.

The upgrade includes “accelerating the installation of smart energy management solutions and supplementary network capacity”.

Vodacom says it already has the necessary permits to upgrade its network as per the regulations gazetted by government classifying telecommunications as an essential service in the Disaster Management Act.

“Vodacom has secured permits from government to enable its field teams to continue performing their critical duties during this time, such as repairs and upgrades to key communications infrastructure. Vodacom has also ordered spare parts needed for maintenance in advance,” says the telco.

Further, it says, Vodacom has significantly accelerated investment spend in recent weeks to ensure its network remains resilient in the face of increased traffic across both its mobile and fixed networks since the start of the national emergency lockdown.

After a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, president Cyril Ramaphosa ordered a nationwide lockdown, restricting travel, leisure, work, churchgoing and other aspects of life.

The order forces “non-essential” businesses to shut down for three weeks, which has since been extended to five weeks.

In a statement issued today, Vodacom says it expects network traffic to increase even further as customers connect for longer after it implemented price cuts of up to 40% on its 30-day data bundles and launched a range of free essential services available through its zero-rated ConnectU platform on 1 April.

Vodacom Group chief technology officer Andries Delport says: “Vodacom is doing everything possible to ensure we maintain our network service quality during this unprecedented time, with a notable increase in traffic already under way. We are monitoring all traffic patterns daily and prioritising key network upgrades to add capacity and maintain the quality of services delivered to our customers where required.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to gain temporary access to spectrum to enable additional capacity to be added in the quickest and most cost-effective manner as traffic increases further. Vodacom’s priority is ensuring all possible measures are in place to support South Africa’s efforts to combat the outbreak of COVID-19.

“We will continue to increase our network investment spend to manage the extraordinary traffic increases in the short-term. We remain ready to support governments through our various operations across the continent in whatever way we can.”

Moreover, SA’s leading telco by subscriber numbers says it welcomes the move by government to release emergency spectrum during the lockdown period.

Vodacom says it is happy with “the electronic communications, postal and broadcasting directions issued by the minister of communications and digital technologies on 26 March, which proposes a number of measures to help operators cope with the increased traffic demand by proposing the temporary allocation of currently unused spectrum”.

It has since applied to regulator ICASA for temporary spectrum and says it is waiting for the application to be evaluated.