1Mbps broadband for all South Africans, says Vodacom CEO


Peak mobile broadband speeds are reaching tens of Mbps, but Vodacom CEO says that they will focus on giving everyone at least 1Mbps Mobile broadband technologies in South Africa are already supporting peak speeds of up to 42Mbps, with developments poised to push the 100Mbps limit in the near future.

These innovations in the cellular environment get techies excited, but Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys said that the focus should not be on producing high peak speeds in only selected areas, but rather to provide every South African with a 1Mbps broadband connection.

Uys said that Vodacom has a strong focus on providing ubiquitous 1Mbps broadband access throughout the country, where subscribers can be assured of a good Internet experience wherever they are (both indoors and outdoors).

Uys added that innovations in radio network capacity and speeds (like 42Mbps HSPA+) will help a great deal not only to increase the average throughput of users, but also to serve more users in the same area. He said that Vodacom currently has 9 million Internet users, but only around 2 million data bundle subscribers (which is a fair indication of broadband users on the network).

Vodacom is focused on doubling the number of broadband users on their network in the next two to three years while also ensuring that all of their current 9 million Internet users get the best Internet experience possible on the Vodacom network.

The Vodacom CEO said that continued network investments and cheaper smartphones and mobile computing devices like tablets will play a crucial role in making the Internet more accessible in South Africa and bringing broadband to the masses.

He said that Vodacom aims to bring a quality Android smartphone to the market this year which will cost around R500, putting it within reach of most working class South Africans.

Uys further highlighted the educational benefits of affordable mobile computing devices like Android smartphones, tablets and book readers, explaining that textbook distribution, online lessons and even interactive tutorials are all possible through these devices.

However, Uys believes that the country needs the buy in from all sectors, including government, telecoms operators and the IT industry, to use technology to boost education and through this address the social ills in our society.

When it comes to spectrum allocation - a vital ingredient in rolling out wireless broadband networks - Uys said that it is important that the regulator (ICASA) follow guidelines that ensure that this valuable resource is handed to companies that will make the most of it.

“Spectrum should be taken away from companies which don’t use it and handed to operators who are willing to invest in networks [and] roll out services to the South African population,” said Uys.

The Vodacom CEO appealed to ICASA to follow international standards in allocating spectrum, and further welcomed the idea of both giving some spectrum to large operators with national networks and to other players which will bring more competition to the market.