The community, which is situated between two mountains and previously used expensive satellite phones to communicate, would now receive second- and third-generation network coverage from base stations that operate on solar tracking and wind power generation technology.
The solar tracking systems link to international GPS to allow panel alignment with the sun, eliminating the need for upfront array placement studies. The panels are about 34% smaller than a conventional solar panel, as less surface area is required to reach maximum power.
The network technology installed in the base stations, which Vodacom chief technology officer Andries Delport said was the first of its kind in Africa, would also enable the farmers to automate farm-operated pumps, dam levels and irrigation systems. The sites were also adapted for any future expansions.
The coverage was expected to significantly grow farming business in the Vleiland area.
“Our commitment is to ensure that most South Africans have access to cellphone technology and also to ensure that our operation is built on sound principles of sustainability. In finding a solution for the community of Vleiland Valley, we applied base-station technology in a manner that has never been used on the continent before,” Delport said in a statement.
Vodacom has been in talks with the farming community since 2006 to develop a cost-effective solution to network coverage in the region. Cape Town-based renewable and hybrid power systems manufacturer and designer Terzobix supplied the green technology for the hybrid sites.
“The solution for Vleiland Valley has been a fantastic breakthrough as we can now deploy the same type of base stations in other areas that require innovative, off-grid, low-cost base stations,” commented Delport, adding that it could also be implemented by the group’s other Africa-based operations.