Vodacom eyes national broadband rollout

2013-11-12 13:12

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Cape Town - Vodacom is preparing to expand its footprint to become a national telco with its strategy to buy Neotel.

The mobile operator is engaged with talks to take over Neotel and roll out last mile fibre to homes and businesses, once it received regulatory approval.

"Neotel is the SNO [Second national operator] so the opportunity is us to recapitalise it properly; combine their fixed business with our business and basically rollout a lot quicker," Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub told News24.

Vodacom intends to combine the fixed operation of Neotel with its own wireless offerings to become a full telco in SA. The fact that Vodacom already has fibre links between its base stations means that if the deal gets the go-ahead, the operator could potentially extend these links to nearby homes and business premises.

"As we've been rolling out a lot more fibre to connect our base stations, it gives us the opportunity to connect the businesses, housing estates in densely populated areas along the way as well," said Joosub.


He said that the urban areas would receive first priority given the location of the fibre links, but that the company was considering how it would cover the rural areas.

"That's obviously the intention and in the more rural areas, initially at least, we'll use 3G and 4G to make sure we get broadband access in every home."

The rollout of broadband seems to be a government focus area and recently, the minister of communications said that broadband was a next critical step for the country's development after mobile penetration.

"The next crucial step is to replicate the mobile miracle for broadband in South Africa. Most of our population still have no access to the internet at all, let alone a broadband connection," said Minister Yunus Carrim at the Southern Africa Telecommunication Networks and Applications Conference.

He conceded that the hurdle of spectrum policy and allocation needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

"Obviously, we have to move with speed too on spectrum policy. We aim to finalise the Spectrum Policy by March 2014. This includes the issue of high-demand spectrum for broadband, which is linked to digital migration."

Vodacom said that regulatory approval for the Neotel deal was crucial for the company to begin delivery of high-speed broadband, which could see the operator in direct competition with Telkom.

Last mile network

"The big thing for us is how quickly we get competition regulatory approval; obviously the speedier we get it the more we can kick off faster, if you like," Joosub said.

He indicated that Vodacom had the resources ready to invest in a universal fibre last mile network as soon as a green light was received.

"What I'm saying is that we'll speed it up once we have concluded the transaction and once we've made sure that we have the appropriate resources in Neotel as well."

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Read more on:    vodacom  |  neotel  |  broadband  |  internet

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