South Africa: Vodacom claims progress in rural connectivity
Vodacom has announced that its pilot of satellite connectivity solutions aimed at providing coverage for rural users is returning positive results, as it looks to improve connectivity for businessmen and farmers.
Vodacom Business entered into a partnership with South African agriculture trade association AGRI SA earlier this year, with a view to solving increasingly pressing telecommunications challenges in rural areas of the country.
Ageing fixed-line infrastructures have failed to provide suitable telecoms connections to the rural population, with a focus in particular on swiftly connecting AGRI SA members.
Explaining the problem at the time, Johannes Moller, President of AGRI SA said: “The deterioration of rural fixed-line telephone infrastructure means that effective telecommunication in various regions has become virtually impossible especially with regards to gaining access to the internet, email facilities and, recently, also voice.”
The lack of connectivity was causing knock-on effects to business and the economy, with farmers out of reach for suppliers, and customers.
Announcing the partnership in July, with ten pilot schemes rolled out across rural communities, Vodacom noted: “Agriculture is a critical sector for development, employment and the economy of the country. To realise the full potential of this sector agricultural players need access to cutting-edge technology to market and grow their businesses.”
Chris Lazarus, Managing Executive of Vodacom Business Services promised: “This partnership with Agri SA will serve as a catalyst to bring a truly mobile, accessible and affordable solution to these areas."
With the South African government pushing for 100 percent internet coverage by 2030 – levels currently standing at approximately 20 percent - Vodacom’s promises are ambitious but also timely. It is in this context that the duo last week announced that the satellite connection schemes are going to plan, as rural communities report good coverage.
One company using the service is Naranja Packers, a citrus grower and packer from rural Mpumalanga. Having experienced multiple challenges such as slow connectivity speeds and even cable theft in the region, Naranja is currently trialling the satellite connection service.
KerneelsCombrink, Financial Manager for Naranja Packers gave the service a glowing recommendation, saying: “Vodacom Satellite Connect is an essential communications solution if we are to grow our business and stay in touch with our customers here and overseas. We are using it as a business expansion driver and it has become a critical element of our business. It's an excellent service - reliable and fast - and we are very happy with it."
A similarly positive report comes from the AlzuEntreprises Group, which encompasses a number of mostly farming operations in the Mpumalanga region. Chief Financial Officer Ben Myburgh noted: “There are no fixed lines in the area and very poor 3G reception,” adding of the satellite services: “It's a must-have for us and we are very happy to now have a reliable service that meets our needs.”