South African mobile operator Vodacom would invest R2,5-billion over the next five years to reposition the firm from a mobile centric network operator to a provider of converged information and communication solutions, it said over the weekend.

CEO Alan Knott-Craig said at the weekend that, in a maturing South African market where cellphone SIM card penetration was already over 90%, the future was in expanding the business horizontally.

“We believe that substantial changes will take place in the telecommunications world this year, with the main drivers being within the regulatory and competitive environments,” he said.

Vodacom had established a new division called Vodacom Business to provide end-to-end converged solutions and services for the corporate and small and medium-sized markets.

Knott-Craig said that the demand for broadband was growing exponentially but that it was being stifled by the country’s limited transmission capacity.

Vodacom, and rival MTN, last year announced that they were building their own transmission capacity.

Vodacom is building a fibre-optics network and the first ring will be completed in Gauteng by April. The network is being built with links to many of South Africa’s top blue-chip companies, which have already indicated a commitment to infrastructure and service contracts with Vodacom Business.

Vodacom Business would have four main towers of services to market, including Access Services, Hosted Services, Managed Network Services and Converged Application Services.

Access Services would build state-of-the art access networks to provide last-mile connectivity and broadband access with service level agreements to ensure optimum uptime and availability.

Hosted Services would give customers the ability to outsource functions such as hosting, application services, storage and security functions allowing companies to take advantage of the scale and diversity of a large infrastructure and to focus their attention on their core business.

Managed Network Services would provide high-quality first-tier Internet and managed network services to businesses. This includes a range of Internet access mediums, virtual private network (VPN) solutions and a next-generation network that will provide a wide variety of simultaneous voice, video and data communication options.

Converged Application Services streamlines the access and management of mobile applications and their various service providers into a seamless service that is globally operational, supporting a full range of communication devices, from cellphones to laptops to PDA’s.