Vodacom's tech boss just quit at a tricky time - to join a Johann Rupert company
- Vodacom's chief technology officer Andries Delport has resigned after more than two decades with the company.
- An analyst says that the company will feel his absence as Vodacom prepares for 5G.
- Delport is reportedly joining a company owned by Remgro.
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
After 23 years with Vodacom, the group’s chief technology officer (CTO) Andries Delport has resigned – to join a company majority-owned by Remgro, which counts tycoon Johann Rupert as its biggest shareholder.
Under Delport’s command, Vodacom has emerged as the network that customers are most satisfied with for four years in a row. Last year, a large survey of 185,000 tests across South Africa also showed that Vodacom offered the fastest 4G speeds. At the time, Delport (54) said the group spent almost R50bn in six years to achieve the results.
Vodacom CEO, Shameel Joosub, said in a statement on Tuesday that Delport’s contribution to the group has been “immeasurable”.
Delport’s resignation will be felt as it comes at a time when Vodacom is preparing for 5G and transitioning from a mobile network operator to an Internet of Things technology group, says Tasneem Samodien, research analyst from Private Client Securities at Old Mutual Wealth.
Delport was integral in helping to set up the first commercial 5G network in Africa in Lesotho. Lesotho launched 5G before South Africa, which has been restricted by a lack of spectrum. Only newcomer rain has launched a 5G offering in South Africa.
Vodacom and MTN have both said they could launch 5G locally in 2019, but have been restricted by a lack of access to the necessary radio frequency spectrum. Icasa recently announced details about the long-awaited spectrum auction, which should take place early next year.
But while Old Mutual’s Samsodien believes Vodacom will feel Delport’s absence, “change can also be good”.
“Given Vodacom’s recent appointment of Jacques Barkhuizen [as managing executive for digital channels and platforms], there is no doubt that Vodacom is able to attract quality talent in the industry or appoint an internal successor for the position.” Barkhuizen was previously CIO at Absa. “As investors, we remain comfortable with the collective (technology) industry experience held by the executive team and the Board.”
Vodacom said it will announce its new CTO in due course.
Delport’s new mission
Delport will join telecommunications business Community Investment Ventures Holdings, in which Remgro has a 54% shareholding, as CTO from May 2020, former Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys, who chairs CIVH, told Business Insider SA.
CIVH owns Dark Fibre Africa, which has fibre networks throughout South Africa, as well as the broadband FTTH provider Vumatel.
Uys said Delport will guide the CIVH board in realising the new opportunities in telecoms, including 5G. CIVH wants to be more than a fibre company, and will explore opportunities in data centres (which house a number of large numbers of networked computers and storage) and 5G cellphone towers.
It is also interested in getting involved in the mooted wireless open access network (WOAN).
Government is considering setting aside a part of the 5G spectrum for a WOAN, which will be owned communally by a number of telecom groups and provide wholesale wireless data in South Africa.
Despite the weak economy, Uys says CIVH has not seen a slowdown in the demand for data communication, which is still seeing double-digit growth every year.
It should continue to grow until everyone and everything in South Africa is connected and has access to the internet, Uys said.
He denied a Bloomberg report that Rupert is considering selling Remgro's shareholding in Vumatel and Dark Fibre Africa, valued at as much as R22 billion.
"I can assure you that Remgro has no intention to sell its interest in these companies. It's not on our radar screen.”
The article has been updated with a correction to Jacques Barkhuizen's title and past position.
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