By Natasha Odendaal for Creamer Media’s Engineering News
Telecommunications giant Vodacom has started engaging communities to intensify security around its base stations to guard against vandalism and battery theft.
Community members will be recruited, trained and accredited – working with police – serving as “monitoring personnel” under a new model to secure its sites.
“Incidents of base station vandalism have significantly gotten worse over the last few years,” said Vodacom Group CEO Shameel Joosub, noting that the crime is being perpetuated by organised syndicates that always find new ways to commit this type of crime.
“Our security teams on the ground have observed that quite often syndicates target base stations in far-flung and secluded areas because they know it will take police a long time to react. Hence, our sites in remote areas are repeatedly hit,” said Vodacom Group chief risk officer Johan Van Graan.
Theft and vandalism, and its subsequent damage, is costing network providers hundreds of millions of rands worth of damage every year.
Vodacom reported a 35% increase year-on-year in the number of battery thefts at its base stations, with an average of 600 incidents a month of sites impacted by theft or damage.
“We are losing between R120-million and R130-million to vandalism and theft each year. Nonetheless, we are not sitting on our laurels and are fighting back by coming up with innovative measures to stem the tide of battery theft,” Joosub assured.
Vodacom is testing a new model to secure its sites by forging partnerships with members of the community.
“As part of this new model, we recruit local people to serve as monitoring personnel to be our eyes and ears on the ground and provide us critical information police can use to effect arrests,” Van Graan said.
Locals will be trained and accredited, and linked with the local policing community forum and local South African Police Services to provide support when arrests must happen.
“In all the provinces where this model is currently being tested, it has yielded positive results,” he said, citing a substantial reduction in break-ins at at-risk sites owing to the enlistment of local people to secure its sites.
“This demonstrates that the number-one line of defence against site vandalism is the local community and vigilant community members who report incidents of battery theft or site vandalism to police,” he added.
Each theft incident can result in the network in that area being down for days, and can severely impact businesses, as well as anyone relying on the Internet to study and remain in contact with friends and family.
Vodacom plans to spend R1-billion in the current financial year to ensure its network is able to cope with widespread electricity blackouts, which will include intensified security around the telco’s base station sites and the installation of additional batteries and generators to ensure connectivity during load-shedding.
By Natasha Odendaal for Creamer Media
Telecommunications group Vodacom South Africa plans to accelerate its network spend over the next two months.
Over R500-million has been set aside to add network capacity and increase network resilience during South Africa’s lockdown period and to help cope with any possible load-shedding.
This will include accelerating the installation of smart energy management solutions and supplementary network capacity.
“Vodacom is doing everything possible to ensure that we maintain our network service quality during this unprecedented time, with a notable increase in traffic already under way,” says Vodacom Group CTO Andries Delport.
“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,” he continued.
Vodacom is experiencing sustained peak traffic patterns for almost the entire day as South Africans are dependent on the network to stay in touch, work from home and keep entertained.
Prior to the lockdown, traffic typically peaked during certain hours of the day.
Vodacom 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, Delport added.
Vodacom also welcomed the temporary allocation of currently unused spectrum to help operators cope with the increased traffic demand.
Vodacom has applied to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa for temporary spectrum and is now awaiting the evaluation of the application.
“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.”
Source: Tech Financials
Vodacom has cut data prices by up to 40% and will provide free data to access essential services through Vodacom’s zero-rated platform ConnectU with immediate effect.
The value of these initiatives is some R2.7-billion over the next year.
Vodacom’s various 30-day data bundle prices will be cut across all of its channels by up to 40%, providing customers with even greater value and making it more affordable to connect.
30-day bundle size price reduction
- 50MB R12 – cut by 40%
- 150MB R29 – cut by 33%
- 325MB R55 – cut by 33%
- 500MB R79 – cut by 21%
- 1GB R99 – cut by 34%
- 3GB R229 – cut by 23%
- 5GB R349 – cut by 14%
- 10GB R469 – cut by 22%
- 20GB R699 – cut by 31%
Jorge Mendes, Chief Officer of Vodacom’s Consumer Business Unit, says: “Vodacom can play a critical role in supporting society during this challenging time and we’re committed to doing whatever we can to help customers stay connected. Since we started our pricing transformation strategy three years ago, our customers have benefitted from significant reductions in data prices and the cost of voice calls. Over the same period, we invested over R26 billion in infrastructure and new technologies, so our customers enjoy wider 2G, 3G and 4G coverage and vastly increased data speeds.”
The latest data reductions will complement the discounted bundle offers that will also be made available to prepaid customers in more than 2,000 less affluent suburbs and villages around the country. For qualifying communities to access further discounted voice and data deals, they need to simply click on the scrolling ConnectU banner on the platform via connectu.vodacom.co.za
ConnectU – which is a zero-rated platform – also goes live today. It will provide content aimed at social development and offers a variety of essential services for free. Learners and students enrolled in schools and universities can access relevant information for free, with no data costs.
The ConnectU portal includes a search engine linked to open sources such as Wikipedia and Wiktionary as well as free access to job portals; free educational content on the e-School platform; free health and wellness information and free access to Facebook Flex, the low data alternative to Facebook that enables customers to stay socially connected.
Vodacom’s popular Just4You platform has been a significant contributor to the approximately 50% reduction in effective data prices over the past two years. Substantial cuts in out-of-bundle tariffs and the introduction of hourly, daily and weekly bundles with much lower effective prices have also driven increased value and affordability, resulting in R2 billion in savings for customers in 2019.
This latest announcement is part of Vodacom’s social contract with the public and has been extensively discussed and agreed with the Competition Commission.
“Today’s price cuts and free access to ConnectU will also assist South Africans during the national state of disaster while at the same time helping to drive greater digital inclusion,” concludes Mendes.
Source: CNBC Africa
South African insurance company Discovery and mobile operator Vodacom are teaming up to offer a free, online doctor consultation service to all South Africans with coronavirus-related concerns.
Discovery had already set up an online service for its own customers but had put it on ice due to a regulatory hold-up. Now it will be open for anyone.
The R20-million ($1.11-million) cost of the first 100 000 consultations will be split between the two companies. Doctors sign up to the service voluntarily, with more than 5 000 registered so far.
Vodacom will also provide free access to the platform via mobile data, but only with a Vodacom sim card, meaning users will have to already be a customer or sign up to Vodacom to access the service.
Discovery CEO Adrian Gore said there was no financial benefit to the insurer from the partnership, and it would not receive a share in any revenues Vodacom earned from new customers.
He added that sources of funding would have to be explored if the number of consultations went above 100,000.
Gore also told Reuters that the company was modelling the potential impact the coronavirus will have on claims, with its businesses in South Africa and Britain a focus.
“Covid-19 claims are certainly going to go up and we’re modelling that, but the cost of other health events are going down quite dramatically, people are not going for elective surgery, so there’s a bit of a counter balance,” he said.
There was also a much higher risk of mortality claims too, he continued, adding the insurer was “preparing carefully” for this outcome.
By Yolisa Tswanya for IOL
They said it could’ve been slashed even further, but consumers have for now accepted a 34% reduction in Vodacom’s data prices.
Yesterday, it became the first network giant to comply with the Competition Commission’s call to lower data prices.
Morné Grewe said he was happy a decision has finally been made: “It will make a difference for many people.
“Even though it’s by 34%, it is a step in the right direction.
“It will make a difference to people and they won’t be spending so much per month on data.”
Beronisha Cloete said she found Vodacom to have good coverage but high prices: “I have never had any real problems with them.
“It can be a little lower, but it is what it is and we accept it.”
Nomzamo Balangile said the price reduction would allow her to buy data more regularly.
“I don’t always buy data because it’s expensive, but now maybe I will be able to buy more times a month,” she added. “I am glad they are lowering the price.”
Vodacom and Rain consumers can RICA their sim-cards online, while MTN promises to improve RICA service in the near future.
- RICA stands for the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act
- All SIM cards in the country must be registered with a user’s personal details such as residential address and ID number
- Online registration allows customers to avoid queues
- Vodacom was the first telecommunications company to make use of online RICA in 2018, but this was only used to verify and update RICA information of existing customers
- Similar to an instore-RICA, consumers are required to have a valid South African identity document and a proof of residence that is no more than 3 months old
- MTN has pledged to partner with the Department of Home Affairs to leverage digital databases and biometric authentication to improve the process
- Cell C and Telkom do not allow for online RICA, with no plans in the near future to release the functionality
Vodacom Group Ltd. sees its African financial-services business as a cornerstone of growth as the wireless carrier expands into products such as funeral insurance and loans of as little as $2 (R30).
The unit of the U.K.’s Vodafone Group Plc uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to customize its financial offering depending on the different needs of markets ranging from Democratic Republic of Congo to Mozambique, Vodacom Chief Executive Officer Shameel Joosub said in an interview. “Our expectations are that we can grow this business segment at those levels for the next few years,” he said at the company’s head office north of Johannesburg.
Nano-loans are growing in popularity, the CEO said, with Kenya a particularly big market. Meanwhile funeral cover is popular among South African cultures that traditionally spend relatively large sums on ceremonies, he added.
“With nano lending we give people $2 or $3 loans and they pay us back within a few days,” Joosub said. “They can get food when needed, and water, and electricity.”
Mobile financial services have become a significant source of revenue for Africa’s telecom companies as the continent’s young and growing population take advantage of a growing availability of smartphones to overcome a lack of formal banking infrastructure. An estimated 84% of Africans will have access to a mobile connection within the next five years, according to a report by GSMA.
The increased use of mobile phones could boost the sub-Saharan Africa economy by as much as $150 billion during the same period, according to the report.
Vodacom has a target of 20% annual growth for financial services over the longer term as the business stabilizes from initial greater jumps off a low base. Sales from the division gained by 37% in the six months through September. The service fees for nano-loans are typically between 5% and 20%.
Vodafone is increasingly consolidating African operations under the Vodacom umbrella, and will give management control of its Ghana business to Joosub in April. The Vodacom CEO has also been appointed to the executive committee of the U.K. parent.
By Sihle Mavuso for IOL
In the wake of the Competition Commission ordering Vodacom and MTN to lower their exorbitant data prices, the ruling party says the two must voluntarily do so now than later.
MTN and Vodacom lost R22-billion of their combined value on Monday after the competition watchdog gave the two dominant mobile phone operators two months to slash internet connectivity prices or face prosecution.
The ANC, in response to the two mobile giants’ reasoning that data was so expensive because of the lack of spectrum, said that would be sorted in the near future and that should not be an excuse.
Joining the chorus of those welcoming the news that on the side battered the values of the companies, the ruling party said the current steep prices of data have a negative impact not only on the growth of the information and communication technology (ICT) sector.
“We reiterate our call that operators must demonstrate goodwill by voluntarily lowering data prices and allow government to resolve the allocation of new spectrum. The release of spectrum, which the ANC supports, will resolve the network capacity constraints experienced by Mobile Network Operators and accelerate the roll-out of broadband networks in rural areas,” the party said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
On the high data costs, the party said the working class poor, youth, students and women are robbed of their income as they spend more than 25% on the telecommunications services including data services.
It said the majority of the country’s people, due to the widening digital divide, are unable to enjoy the benefits of a digital economy, which deprive the poor of full participation in the democracy of our country. It added that this further stifles development and growth of small businesses.
“The ANC further urges government to activate all regulatory mechanisms, i.e. Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to ensure the implementation of the findings and recommendations of the Competition Commission, with the necessary speed. Access to data in the 21st century is important because it facilitates the realisation of many rights enshrined in our Bill of Rights, as well as, enhancing economic participation and the strengthening of our democracy.”
Among its findings, the Competition Commission said while conducting its inquiry it started in 2017, it found that current comparisons of the prices charged by Vodacom and MTN in other African markets in which they operate also reveal that South African prices are higher than most countries by some distance.
One of South Africa’s biggest telcos has suffered two major resignations in just four days.
Vodacom CFO Till Streichert has resigned shortly after the company announced that its CTO Andries Delport would be leaving.
Vodacom confirmed Streichert’s resignation this morning, saying he will leave the company in June 2020 “to pursue an external opportunity outside of Vodacom”.
Streichert was appointed as the chief financial officer and an executive director of Vodacom Group in August 2015 after working as the finance director at Vodacom SA from February 2014. He was also appointed as a non-executive director of Vodacom Tanzania, Vodafone Kenya, and Safaricom in August 2017.
Delport resigned after 23 years with Vodacom, where he helped lead the network to be what it is today.
Delport’s resignation comes at a time when Vodacom is preparing for 5G and transitioning from a mobile network operator to an Internet of Things technology group. He was integral in helping to set up the first commercial 5G network in Africa in Lesotho. Lesotho launched 5G before South Africa, which has been restricted by a lack of spectrum. Only newcomer rain has launched a 5G offering in South Africa.
A recent article by MyBroadband explored how the popularity of VoIP services like WhatsApp has impacted voice income for South African major mobile networks: Vodacom, MTN, Telkom and Cell C.
- Vodacom has experienced a “slight decrease in the consumption of traditional voice minutes”, but said the advantages of traditional GSM calls still make it a good option for consumers.
- MTN told MyBroadband that it has “experienced a decrease in traditional calls and an increase in VoIP usage to match”.
- Cell C admitted they had noticed a decrease in the amount of traditional call minutes being used, but said that it had stabilised.
- Telkom told MyBroadband that it had “not seen a decrease in the average minutes of use per user for both on and off-network calling”.
However, according to We are Social, “WhatsApp is the biggest messaging app … in South Africa. We have 38-million unique mobile users, which grew by two million between 2017 and 2018. ”
The high costs of data in South Africa prevent many users from using WhatsApp’s full capabilities.