Industry sources have told MyBroadband that Vodacom is in talks to buy a stake in VAST Networks.
The report comes after news that VAST Networks, which is owned by Dimension Data and Naspers, is for sale.
Dimension Data and Naspers previously declined to provide comment on the matter.
VAST Networks was established in 2015 as a joint venture between Dimension Data and Naspers, which own 51% and 49% respectively.
The company is an open-access Wi-Fi network infrastructure provider, delivering carrier-grade Wi-Fi in Southern Africa.
Vodacom told MyBroadband that it does not comment on speculation, in response to queries on the latest reported deal with VAST.
A deal between Vodacom and VAST could have multiple benefits for the mobile network operator.
Operators looking to improve their network capacity and performance have been investigating LTE in unlicensed spectrum.
Called LTE-U, it makes use of unlicensed spectrum, such as the 5GHz band, to improve data performance without requiring a user to log into a separate Wi-Fi network.
A mobile operator using LTE-U needs multiple microcells (similar to Wi-Fi hotspots) using unlicensed spectrum to offload traffic from its sites which use licensed spectrum.
In South Africa, where mobile operators are starved of spectrum, an LTE-U network can be valuable.
Vodacom has already demonstrated the benefits of LTE-U in South Africa, hitting mobile broadband speeds of over 1Gbps by aggregating spectrum in licensed and unlicensed bands in its laboratory in 2016.
LTE LAA – an “evolution of LTE-U” – has also been tested in South Africa, with MTN using 15MHz of 2,100MHz spectrum and 40MHz of 5GHz spectrum to achieve a peak downlink throughput of over 400Mbps in April.