A slew of research papers in recent years from Europe and the United States (US) have shown that Africa, including South Africa (SA), have lagged behind in network quality and data speeds when compared to networks in developed economies. But a better picture is emerging where SA is fast narrowing the gap and is doing much better against the best in the world when it comes to 3G and 4G mobile networks coverage.
For instance, a comparison of the results of recent tests done by PC Magazine, a leading global technology magazine, testing data speeds of the top four cellphone network providers in 30 cities in the US, shows that SA has better upload and download speeds on 3G than the US and is almost on par in terms of 4G download speeds.
This is a clear demonstration that the hundreds of billions of rands that have been invested by the local cellphone network providers in broadband infrastructure over the last 20 years are yielding positive results.
The latest results also show that Vodacom SA’s 35 million customers benefit from superior 3G and 4G download speeds than their counterparts in the US.
Andries Delport, Vodacom’s Chief Technology Officer at Vodacom commented:
“This is testament to the fact that our network investment efforts are paying off. We have always maintained that our networks are our key point of differentiation, and as such, it is in our interest to invest in them to increase data speeds, reduce dropped-called rates and deliver the best service to our customers. This year alone we invested R12.9 billion in our networks in South Africa, targeted primarily at expanding our 2G, 3G and 4G coverage, enhancing our network performance and improving customer experience.”
“If we factor in inflation, we have invested R142 billion in our network infrastructure in SA since our inception. By enhancing access to voice and data, our network and service offerings are helping to transform lives and stimulate economic growth in these emerging markets.”
A 2009 World Bank study found that low-income and middle-income countries experienced a 1.38 percentage point increase in GDP for each 10 percent increase in broadband penetration.
In South Africa, Vodacom’s 2G network now covers 99% of the country’s population, wider than any other service provider. Vodacom’s 3G network covers around 98.9% and 4G close to 70% of the population, well ahead of its competitors.
“Vodacom is committed to ensuring that we continue to extend our network coverage in South Africa. In particular our strategy includes doing a lot more to extend coverage in the remotest parts of SA but in order to do this, we need additional spectrum. There is no doubt that greater access to spectrum will give South Africans faster speeds, wider access to LTE coverage and, inevitably, lower data pricing,” Delport says.