Until now Gautrain stations have been connectivity-, food- and drink-free zones. You still can’t chew gum or take a sip from your water bottle, but at least you’ll be able to moan about it on social media, assuming you’re a Vodacom customer, that is, because South Africa’s largest mobile network now offers mobile connectivity.
No more waiting to post your Hyperlapse during those five magic minutes of connectivity between Marlboro and Rhodesfield Stations, no more Facebook separation anxiety and no need to engage in small talk with other passengers while we mull around the platform trying to remember how we filled our waiting time before mobile phones. Can we get a hurrah?
Vodacom’s spent the last three months working with Department of Roads and Transport, the Gautrain Management Agency, Bombela Concession Company and the Strategic Partners Group to install distributed antenna systems that support 2G, 3G and LTE/4G services.
Each of these systems is connected via fibre-optic cable to network equipment located in Rosebank. So far only Rosebank, Sandton and Park Stations have the facilities, but with any luck the rest of the stations on the network will soon get wired up, too.
“I’ve always found it frustrating when I’ve gone into one of the underground station and couldn’t connect, especially when I’ve had some free time while waiting for the train. We pride ourselves on having the fastest and widest network in South Africa and now we can add ‘deepest’ coverage to that claim as well,” says Vodacom’s chief technology officer, Andries Delport.
“This is the first phase of the process. Our next task is to work on ensuring that we have a seamless service throughout the Gautrain route. That means not dropping a call when you go into a tunnel. We’re currently in talks with our partners to roll this out,” Delport adds.
Here’s hoping the rest of South Africa’s networks broker similar deals (or pay Vodacom for roaming privileges) soon.