Vodacom Group CTO Dejan Kastelic (pictured) said the operator will be expanding its use of LEO satellites this year to plug coverage gaps with satellite operator partners Starlink and AST SpaceMobile.
Kastelic told Developing Telecoms during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona the operator is seeking to connect the unconnected across its eight countries of operations across Africa.
“I'm proud that we’re looking at LEO satellites to broaden coverage with Starlink and AST SpaceMobile. This is a big focus area for us to learn to scale out in terms of connecting those unconnected in rural sites using LEO satellites,” said Kastelic.
Kastelic noted LEO satellites provide higher throughput and latency to deliver better service compared to GEO satellites which are lacklustre in those features.
He also said LEO satellite technology can be rolled out to connect subscribers in two years compared to the 10-15 years the traditional approach would take. However, Vodacom is also planning to launch and operate between 6,000 to 6,500 new cell sites in future.
Vodacom has operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, South Africa Tanzania and is a shareholder in Safaricom Ethiopia. The company also acquired Vodafone Egypt in December which lifted revenues for the group.
Vodacom announced it would spin out towers in South Africa into a separate company last year. Kastelic said the plan is still ongoing with a managing director coming in soon to assume the lead of the tower company.
Vodacom has one of Africa’s largest tower portfolios with around 40,000 at its disposal.