According to local press reports, mobile operator Vodacom South Africa has confirmed that it has exceeded 1,000 active 43.2Mbps HSPA+ sites on its network. Although the deployment has taken place over time, Vodacom stressed that it did not want to publicise the improved speeds until they had achieved ‘significant’ HSPA+ coverage. CEO Pieter Uys commented: ‘We have actually had the technology up and running for some time, but we wanted to have a critical mass of at least 1,000 base stations before flipping the switch to allow consumers access at up to double the speed. We wanted to make sure that we had the service available in more than just one city’.
According to MyBroadband.co.za Vodacom currently has over 4,300 3G base stations in South Africa, of which 2,650 are 21Mbps enabled, with the remainder supporting transmission speeds of 14.4Mbps. Further, Vodacom chief technical officer Andries Delport has disclosed that Vodacom plans to have a total of 2,000 HSPA+ towers upgraded to support transmission speeds of 43.2Mbps by May 2011. Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys had previously indicated that Vodacom intends to roll out an additional 1,000 3G base stations during 2011. Despite the increase in peak speeds Vodacom has said that it is focusing on increasing the average performance of its overall network, and will connect 2,000 mobile sites to fibre by the end of the current financial year.
However, Delport tempered the announcement by conceding that speeds of up to 43.2Mbps are strictly theoretical, and depend on how many people are using the towers, and their proximity to the base stations; in a live HSPA+ test staged on Friday Vodacom demonstrated peak download speeds of around 37Mbps. There will be no increase in costs to existing subscribers, and compatible 43.2Mbps HSPA+ dongles are now available in Vodacom retail stores. Although precise rollout details are unknown, it is believed that most major metropolitan areas will be covered from the outset. TeleGeography notes that Vodacom’s announcement came just days before rival Cell C was set to officially inaugurate its own 43.2Mbps HSPA+ network, in Port Elizabeth, on 19 April.