Rain and Vodacom have a close commercial relationship – Rain has access to Vodacom’s sites and facilities while Vodacom roams on Rain’s new LTE-A network.
It looks like a match made in heaven. The roaming agreement with Rain helps Vodacom to overcome its network capacity constraints while Vodacom helps Rain to rapidly roll out an LTE-A network.
Many people may wonder why such an agreement did not happen sooner. Well, such an agreement did exist in the past and Vodacom was, in fact, a shareholder in the company which became Rain.
The relationship between Vodacom and Wireless Business Solutions (WBS) – the company which ultimately became Rain – stretches back over a decade and included numerous twists and turns.
What is interesting is that Vodacom struck a roaming agreement with Rain to get access to spectrum to increase their network capacity.
This agreement is costing Vodacom billions and it is doing a great deal to help Rain roll out its network and make the most of its spectrum assets.
What must sting is the fact that Vodacom previously owned a large share in WBS and had access to its spectrum. To get access to the same spectrum now, it has to fund a direct competitor.
Here is an overview of how WBS started off, how the company launched its iBurst wireless service, how it became Rain, and Vodacom’s relationship with these companies.
1995 – Vula Mobile Data was established to bid for a national wireless mobile data license.
1997 – Vula Mobile Data receives its national wireless mobile data license from the Minister of Communications.
1998 – Vula Mobile Data changes its name to Wireless Business Solutions (WBS) after Telecel invested in Vula Mobile Data.
1999 – WBS wins the bid to become the IT and Telecoms backbone of the National Lottery (Uthingo) and starts to roll out a national cellular-based wireless data network.
2000 – The National Lottery starts operating on the WBS network, which now had 700 base stations nationally.
2001 – WBS applied for amendments to its license to offer broadband services.
2003 – ICASA amended WBS’s licenses and the company implemented a pilot for broadband using the iBurst technology.
2004 – WBS rolled out its iBurst broadband network in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, and Cape Town and launched an iBurst broadband trial.
2005 – iBurst officially launched its 1Mbps broadband service, with four packages – 1GB for R469, 3GB for R599, 6GB for R899, and 10GB for R1,099.
2005 – iBurst (Pty) Ltd is launched.
2006 – Alan Knott-Craig Jr, the son of then Vodacom CEO Alan Knott-Craig, was appointed as CEO of iBurst.
2006 – Vodacom acquired 10% of WBS.
2008 – Vodacom increased its stake in iBurst parent company WBS to 24.9%.
2008 – Vodacom and WBS partner to deploy a commercial WiMax network using WBS’s commercial WiMax spectrum license.
2009 – Vodacom consultant Jannie van Zyl is appointed as the new WBS and iBurst Group CEO.
2010 – Vodacom’s Pieter Uys announced plans to sell its stake in WBS/iBurst to allow it to bid for more spectrum.
2012 – Vodacom accused WBS for not paying it for the use of its WiMAX network. Vodacom was contracted by WBS to build the network.
2014 – iBurst launched Uncapped Lite, priced at R299 per month on a 24-month contract.
2015 – Multisource acquired WBS and Duncan Simpson-Craib was appointed as Group CEO of Multisource.
2016 – WBS and Vodacom partner to roll out an LTE-A network on which Vodacom can roam.
2017 – iBurst informed customers it will start decommissioning its network and WBS and its LTE-A network was rebranded as Rain.
2017 – The iBurst Wireless service is shut down.
2017 – Rain’s fixed LTE-A service was unveiled in partnership with Internet Solutions in June 2017.
2018 – Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub said they had to strike a roaming deal with Rain to get access to spectrum to increase their network capacity.
2018 – Rain launched its first Rain Mobile data packages in South Africa, competing directly against Vodacom.