JOHANNESBURG – Mobile phone group Vodacom said on Monday its revenue increased by 5.6 percent to R44.4 billion in the six months ended September 30 and that it added 4.8 million customers, a 10.7 percent increase.

The company said it invested R5.3 billion to expand its coverage and improve the quality of its networks.

South Africa service revenue increased 4.6 percent to R27.9 billion, supported by strong customer growth, while international operations service revenue growth accelerated to 12.8 percent, boosted by strong growth in data and M-Pesa.

The company said Vodacom Lesotho had become the first operator to launch a commercial 5G network in Africa and that it had concluded its new broad-based black economic empowerment ownership deal, the largest deal of its kind in the ICT sector.

Vodacom announced an improved interim dividend per share of 395 cents despite the issue of 114.5 million new shares for the new BEE structure.

It said it was encouraged by the relative economic and currency stability in most of its international markets and had seen strong customer growth and accelerating growth in key initiatives such as M-Pesa and data revenue.

It continued to invest and expand in the ecosystems of these platforms and expected this to remain a strong driver for growth.

In South Africa, the company continued to deliver steady growth despite sluggish consumer spending given a tough economic environment.

"Our strategy to drive greater value at various price points combined with providing customers with the ability to select offers most suited to their needs continues to resonate with customers," it said.

"This is evidenced by the increase in customers in South Africa and shows that our investment in personalised offers through Big Data and machine learning continues to differentiate us from our peers."

Vodacom said it would continue to prioritise participation in numerous processes established by the South African government and the national regulator to increase competition in the industry, address the cost to communicate and drive inclusive growth. 

But while it was encouraged by progress made in the regulatory environment in recent times, including a clearer timeline on the allocation of 4G and 5G spectrum, a number of concerns and inconsistencies remained, following publication of a revised Electronic Communications Act and policy direction to the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa regarding unassigned high demand spectrum.

"Commitments by ICASA and the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services to license 4G spectrum by March 2019 are crucial in accelerating reductions in the cost to deliver data services," Vodacom added.

African News Agency (ANA)