Vodacom SA is stepping up its focus on mobile data as demand for broadband booms. The company, which is rolling out its own fibre network to connect its base stations, is already talking about upgrading some of its towers to offer theoretical speeds of up to 42Mbit/s.
Significantly, data now makes up more than half of all traffic on Vodacom’s network. In the past six months, it has added 350 third-generation base stations and is planning another 650 in the second half of the 2011 financial year, which ends in March.
Vodacom Group CEO Pieter Uys says there are just under 1m mobile data cards on the network. “More than half the traffic on the network is data, and that number is growing by more than 50%,” he says. Voice, however, is still the biggest contributor to revenue.
Uys says smartphones are driving demand for mobile data. One in five new phones sold by Vodacom falls into the smartphone category.
Vodacom’s partnership with Opera Software is also helping drive demand. The Opera Mini browser, shipped with many new Vodacom handsets, encourages consumers to browse the Internet. Opera Mini users consume on average three times as much data.
Subscribers who move to the Apple iPhone also consume about three times as much data, Uys says.
He says Vodacom has also developed a method of checking users’ handsets to see if they are set up properly, and will contact a customer when it is not. “This has also helped increase data usage on our network,” he says.
Uys says the data market is becoming far more competitive and Vodacom is working to increase its transmission capacity by bringing fibre links to its base stations.
Already, it has access to 3 500km of fibre and has connected about 2 500 base stations to the network.
“Data is a key strategy for the company’s future. Demand for services will remain high and there are predictions of good growth across the world. We expect to see 2,5bn mobile data users worldwide by 2015,” he says. — Candice Jones, TechCentral