Vodacom Group Limited (operating as Vodacom) is a South African mobile communications company, providing voice, messaging, data and converged services to over 55 million customers. From its roots in South Africa, Vodacom has grown its operations to include networks in Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, and Lesotho, and provides business services to customers in over 32 African countries, including Nigeria, Zambia, Angola, Kenya, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, and Cameroon.
It was owned in a 50/50 partnership by the South African telecommunications giant Telkom and British multinational operator Vodafone. On 6 November 2008, Vodafone announced that it had agreed to increase its stake to 64.5%, and Telkom said that it would spin off its remaining holding by listing it on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). On 1?April 2011, Vodacom officially unveiled its new change in branding from blue to red, using the same style as its parent company, Vodafone.
Vodacom provides coverage to Mount Kilimanjaro, which was the highest point in the world to be covered by GSM, until Axiata (through its subsidiary Ncell) provided coverage at the top of Mount Everest, the highest point in the world. Vodacom was aided by its optimistic advertisements at the early stages of the democratic South Africa, including the yebo gogo campaign which is still in effect today in Africa. Vodacom is the leading cellular network in South Africa with an estimated market share of 58% and more than 103 million customers across Africa.
Vodacom South Africa provides 3G, 4G, and UMTS networks in South Africa, and also offers HSPA+ (21.1 Mbit/s), HSUPA (42 Mbit/s, 2100 MHz), Wi-Fi, WiMAX, and LTE services. Vodacom was the first cellular provider to introduce LTE in South Africa. On 21 October 2015, Vodacom launched its fibre product to the home user. On 7 April 2017, Vodacom's 4G+ network in Brooklyn Mall, Pretoria achieved 240 Mbit/s in a speed test. In early 2020 Vodacom also became the first network operator in Africa to launch a live 5G network, initially available in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town.
Vodacom is a sponsor of many South African sports.
As part of their rugby union sponsorship portfolio, Vodacom has been the title sponsor of the Super Rugby tournament in South Africa since 1996.
In football, they sponsor two clubs in the Premier Soccer League: the Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates. They also sponsor the South African Football Association and the national teams Bafana Bafana (men), Amajita (under 20s), and previously Banyana Banyana (women). However, competitor MTN was one of the sponsors of the 2010 FIFA World Cup held in South Africa.
On May 17, 2009, a court dismissed a joint Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and ICASA application to stop Vodacom's JSE listing. Chegoane Mabelane, the South African article writer and prominent supporter of both African National Congress (ANC) and its alliance; in one of his articles stated that the interdict to stop the listing was fair.
In January 2010, the Sunday Times alleged that Alan Knott-Craig (Senior), former Vodacom CEO, helped his son, Alan Knott-Craig with business ventures using Vodacom's resources. He also allegedly awarded a multimillion-rand contract to a marketing and advertising company run by his family members.
"Please Call Me"
In 2008, former employee Nkosana Makate took Vodacom to court, claiming that the profitable "Please Call Me" message service was originally his invention and demanding compensation. Eight years later, Makate eventually won his case in the Constitutional Court. Makate then entered negotiations with Vodacom for a 15% cut of the R70 billion ($4.84 billion) he claims "Please Call Me" has earned for Vodacom since its inception.
A 2014 judgement in the South Gauteng High Court supported Makate's claim to having originated "Please Call Me." The court heard that, in November 2000, Makate had shared his idea (initially termed the "buzz" idea) with Philip Geissler, then board member and director of product development and management at Vodacom. Geissler had agreed to give Makate a cut should the "Please Call Me" innovation prove a success (however, there was no such agreement, written, oral, or implied – and no evidence to support it). Makate's witnesses presented emails sent by Geissler (Geissler was never called to testify by either party, raising suspicion that both parties would not have benefited from what Geissler would say under oath) and an article in Vodacom's "Talk Time" internal newsletter (such newsletter was written, edited, and printed by a third party in Cape Town) which acknowledged and praised Makate for his idea and his contribution to the product.
The court also rejected former CEO Alan Knott-Craig's claim that he had come up with the idea. Knott-Craig had published the claim in his autobiography, and later repeated in court, that he had the idea while watching two security guards trying to communicate on phones without airtime. Yet the High Court found against Makate's claim for compensation, holding Vodacom's argument that Geissler had not had the authority to promise Makate such compensation and that the debt would have expired (in legal terms, been prescribed) within three years.
Makate took the case on appeal, and then took it to the Constitutional Court. In April 2016, Justice Chris Jafta found in Makate's favour and against Vodacom, overturning both judgements by the High Court, finding that Geissler had the authority to promise compensation, and that Makate's case was not based on an unpaid debt. In Jafta's words: “In not compensating the applicant [Makate] [….] Vodacom associated itself with the dishonourable conduct of its former CEO, Mr Knott-Craig and his colleague, Mr Geissler, and this leaves a sour taste in the mouth. It is not the kind of conduct to be expected from an ethical corporate entity.”
In an open letter to Makate on Facebook, civic society non-profit Right2Know congratulated Makate. Right2Know used the letter to draw attention to the hypocrisy of multinational corporations which claim to support young black South African innovators such as Makate, but whose anti-competitive practices often strangle meaningful innovation. The letter also drew attention to the fact that South Africa's telecommunications duopoly (Vodacom–MTN) had led to the kind of unaffordable tariffs which made the "Please Call Me" service so successful with impoverished consumers in the first place.
Neotel attempted takeover
In October 2013, Vodacom announced it would be acquiring Neotel in a potential US$590 million deal. Even though regulatory approval by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) was obtained in 2015, the deal ultimately collapsed in March 2016 after competitors successfully challenged the transfer of Neotel's licenses and spectrum to Vodacom in court.
As at March 2014, the companies that comprised the Vodacom Group include, but are not limited to the following:
The shares of Vodacom Group are listed and traded on the JSE, under the ticker symbol: VOD. The shareholding in the group's stock was as depicted in the table below in March 2018:
Institutional investors include, in order of held stock, the Public Investment Corporation (also known as PIC, wholly owned by the South African Government), Lazard (US), Blackrock (US), The Vanguard Group (US), Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (also known as GIC, Singapore), Old Mutual (ZA), Abax (ZA), Sanlam (ZA), and State Street Global Advisors (US).
The Samsung Galaxy S8 was officially launched on 5 May 2017.
In 2017, TechCrunch reported that Vodacom partnered with GameMine in a $20 million deal to install subscription-based mobile games on Vodacom's smartphones.