Mobile operator Vodacom wants 25% of its service revenues in South Africa to come from converged services, including from providing fibre-based broadband access and cloud-based applications, to companies of all sizes, within the next five years.
That’s the word from Vodacom Business chief officer Vuyani Jarana, who says his division now accounts for R8bn, or 16% of Vodacom South Africa’s service revenue.
Jarana says the operator will drive this expansion through a much more aggressive focus on winning business from small and medium enterprises (SMEs). In the past, Vodacom Business focused exclusively on the top 1 500 corporate users in South Africa.
“Historically, we focused on corporate clients and didn’t have the scale of products to tackle the huge and rapidly growing SME segment,” he says. Vodacom Business recently launched One Net Express with parent Vodafone. One Net Express has 2m customers in Europe and the product offers what Vodacom calls “big business switchboard functionality into the hands of small businesses”.
Vodacom’s focus on the SME market comes just days after direct rival, Dimension Data-owned Internet Solutions, said it was launching a more aggressive focus on the SME market under the “IS Ignite” brand.
Vodacom, which had wanted to grow into the business and converged services markets through acquisitions when it was launched five years ago, was forced to build infrastructure organically because it was deemed unlikely that the competition authorities would have allowed it to buy out another big player.
As part of the company’s plan after 2008 to build its own fibre-optic infrastructure to its base stations – reducing its reliance on Telkom for network backhaul – it also ensured that it built fibre as close to as many business centres as possible so it could provide fibre broadband directly to business clients.
The operator now has four data centres — two in Johannesburg, one in Cape Town and one in Durban — offering cloud-based services to business customers.
It has begun a more aggressive roll-out of fibre, and has reduced the average time to install a new fibre line at a business premises from 45 days to nearer to 30 days, Jarana says. “Connecting business parks helps us improve mean time to install significantly.”
In an interview last month, Vodacom’s executive head for access solutions, Janine Rebelo, revealed that the operator planned to roll out fibre access to selected business parks in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban in Vodacom’s financial year to March 2014. From next year, assuming the deployments have met the company’s expectations, the plan is to accelerate the build to more business parks and also to include private homes in residential estates.
Jarana says 90% of Vodacom Business’s 2 500 fixed-line customers are on Vodacom’s fibre access network. For the next five years, the company wants 10%/year of the division’s mobile customers to become fibre users, he adds.
“It’s not just about the network, but the rich services that sit in the data centres,” he says. Vodacom Business, with Vodafone Global Enterprises, provides cross-border connectivity and cloud services to businesses in 40 countries in Africa. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media