Source: Business Insider SA
Vodacom has invested R100 million in its Rural Coverage Acceleration Programme.
This has brought mobile network coverage to remote regions in South Africa, with 82 cell phone towers deployed in KwaZulu-Natal alone since 2018.
These base stations are strategically placed to cover rural schools, community halls, and taxi ranks.
The newfound reception is also making a dent in cross-border crimes, with better communication around Lesotho, Mozambique, and eSwatini.
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Mobile network coverage is being brought to far-flung regions of KwaZulu-Natal as part of Vodacom’s Rural Coverage Acceleration Programme. Nearly R100 million has already been invested in 84 new base station sites, with the company targeting 95% 4G coverage in the province by the end of 2022.
South Africa’s biggest mobile network provider is on a mission to cover the most remote regions of KwaZulu-Natal over a three-year period. The programme has already benefited nine district municipalities and 14 local municipalities which previously had no mobile network connectivity.
The programme was introduced in 2018 with the aim of connecting “villages which have never experienced the various economic and societal benefits of cell phone connectivity.” The rollout began with the installation of 2G/3G capable sites in the Eastern Cape, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga. These base stations were quickly upgraded to 4G, with faster and more reliable coverage expanding into KwaZulu-Natal.
“The majority of the sites were allocated to small black-owned businesses to build,” noted Vodacom in detailing its rural programme and the inclusion of small, medium, and micro-sized enterprises (SMME).
“Vodacom is empowering these companies to become mobile tower operators, whereby they will build the sites and Vodacom will lease them back in return.”
Remote regions which have recently been connected to Vodacom’s mobile coverage network include the uMhlabuyalingana local municipality, in the northern most part of KwaZulu-Natal which borders Mozambique, and Mandeni, between Richard’s Bay and Durban.
Vodacom is deploying a further 29 towers to 14 municipalities within the next year, with a specific focus on covering rural schools, community halls, and taxi ranks. This includes extending the network to rural areas within the uPhongolo municipality, which borders eSwatini, and Okhahlamba in the Drakensberg mountains which borders Lesotho.
Pupils in rural schools near Kwamshudu, Sithembile, and Mathulini have, for the first time, been able to connect to the internet via their smartphones. In addition to creating new educational opportunities, the coverage is also assisting job hunters who can now access listings and correspond with potential employers on their mobile phones.
It’s also introduced the ease of mobile banking, reducing the need for residents to travel long distances from rural settlements into town.
Extending mobile network coverage to remote areas also aids crimefighting operations, according to Vodacom. Community Service Centres are now able to communicate more effectively, especially with regards to cross-border crimes around eSwatini, Mozambique, and Lesotho.
By Jamie McKane for MyBroadband
The Hawks’ Port Shepstone Serious Organised Crime Investigation and Port Shepstone K9 have announced that they have arrested three suspects on the N2 on Tuesday when they found cellphone network batteries that were reported stolen.
“Information was received of a van travelling on the N2 to Port Shepstone loaded with a number of cell phone tower batteries,” the SAPS said.
“The Hawks together with the Port Shepstone K9 and LCRC immediately responded to the information and the bakkie in question was located around the Hibberdene area, where the members noticed five suspects offloading batteries at on outbuilding of a scrapyard.”
As the police approached the suspects, two fled the scene and three suspects aged between 26 and 35 were arrested for possession of stolen goods.
48 cell phone tower batteries were recovered at the scene – 24 Vodacom batteries and 24 colloid batteries weighing around 90kg each.
The value of these batteries was around R480,000, and the thieves were also driving a stolen bakkie estimated at R280,000.
“The suspects are scheduled to appear in Hibberdene, Turton District Court on Thursday and are expected to face charges relating to possession of stolen goods,” the SAPS said.
Battery thieves crippling networks
Vandalism and battery theft are rife in South Africa, particularly during load-shedding, when they can be offloaded quickly to buyers at a good price.
MTN previously said that due to the serious problem of cell tower vandalism, it has permanently shut down 53 of its base stations across the country.
The operator said the damage caused by thieves and vandals to its equipment far exceeds the cost of repairing and replacing batteries and other hardware.
Various service interruptions can be caused by these criminal activities apart from diminished coverage, such as outages caused by lost battery replacement, damaged site repair, and tower maintenance.
“Although great strides have been made in the prevention and recovery of stolen batteries, it is still a concern,” said MTN Network Operations general manager Ernest Paul.
“Battery theft is a crime that compromises the safety and welfare of every South African, but it is not a crime that we can fight alone,” he added.
“We therefore appeal to all South Africans to ‘help us help you’ by reporting any theft, vandalism or suspicious activity that you see, hear of or come across.”
By Siseko Njobeni for Business Live
SA’s data-only network operator Rain, which is partly owned by businessmen Patrice Motsepe, Paul Harris and Michael Jordaan, has partnered with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to roll out the high-speed 5G network by the middle of 2019.
The roll-out will make SA one of the first countries to launch 5G, which promises faster download speeds, reliable network connectivity and the ability to connect more devices at once.
“The network will provide fibre-like speeds without installation complexities, time delays and cost of laying fibre in underserviced areas,” Rain CEO Willem Roos said on Tuesday.
Rain and Huawei made the announcement at the 2019 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, where 5G took centre stage.
“5G is here. If there is any doubt, you only have to walk around [the conference],” said Harris, who is also Rain chair.
He said that the development of 5G products later in the year would hit the industry like a tsunami.
Roos said Rain would take advantage of its existing 4G network and allocated spectrum.
Huawei said its products would enable Rain to use the existing network, saying leveraging existing infrastructure would accelerate the roll-out of the 5G network. Rain had about 3,000 4G sites in SA, Roos said.
“It is well-known that as broadband penetration increases in a country, you get better economic growth. With better economic growth, you can see improvement in employment. We are big supporters of [President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan] to re-energise investment in SA.
“We made a promise to invest a significant amount of money in 5G,” Roos said.
“We hope to have rolled out a significant number of towers in [Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban] by mid-2019 to offer commercial services to clients.”
Rain planned to roll out the network rapidly, aiming for “significant” coverage in metropolitan areas initially, he said. The company said it wanted to deploy 1,000 5G sites in major cities in the next two years.
Responding to a question during the announcement, Roos said Rain had no immediate plans to expand to the rest of Africa. “Obviously, there is complexity around spectrum, licences and those kinds of issues. Certainly, SA can play a crucial role as the gateway to Africa. We will see if commercial opportunities that make sense arise.”
GSMA director-general Mats Granryd said: “The arrival of 5G forms a major part of the world’s move towards an era of intelligent connectivity, which alongside developments in the Internet of Things, big data and artificial intelligence, is poised to be a key driver of economic growth over the coming years.”
GSMA is a global mobile industry body.
It said in a report that 5G would account for 15% of global mobile connections by 2025.