Making fibre broadband access possible in SA

Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) has already laid more than 5,000 kilometres of fibre infrastructure in South Africa, and the company’s aggressive fibre rollouts are set to continue.

Jean-Pierre Crouse, Chief Implementation Officer at DFA, told MyBroadband that the company now has 5,253km of fibre in South Africa, with numerous projects on the go.

Apart from continued national and metro-fibre network rollouts in major cities, DFA is currently also rolling out fibre networks in George, East London, Potchefstroom, Rustenburg and Polokwane. Next month will see DFA network rollouts in Knysna, Mosselbaai, Umtata, Witbank and Middelburg.

The company has also built fibre networks in small towns like Vryheid and Piet Retief, with plans to roll out an additional 800km of fibre in small towns across the country.

DFA’s networks from Mtunzini (SEACOM landing station) to Johannesburg (via a northern route) and its Yzerfontein to Cape Town links further enable ISPs to carry international traffic to their points of presence in Cape Town or Gauteng.

DFA network Gauteng-Mtunzini-Durban
DFA network Gauteng-Mtunzini-Durban

Dark Fibre Africa only provides the physical infrastructure and does not connect individual clients or provide services to end users (hence the name ‘Dark Fibre’ Africa).

DFA CEO Gustav Smit explained that it is up to the Internet service providers (ISPs) to get fibre Internet connections to the homes and businesses.

Smit called on ISPs to play a leading role in mobilising communities. “End users simply don’t know what 20Mbps or 100Mbps to the home means. An opportunity needs to be created for users to test drive serious broadband,” said Smit.

Good news is that ISPs are starting to take advantage of DFA’s fibre network to offer fibre connections to businesses.

Crouse said that they already have 40 partners which offer fibre-to-the-premise (FTTx) services using the DFA network, and he expects this number to grow as more service providers start to realize the benefits of offering their clients fibre access.

Crouse added that businesses are starting to ask for FTTx services, further driving the demand for fibre access in South Africa.

While businesses are currently the main benefactors of fibre access, Crouse explained that the benefits extend far beyond simply connecting businesses via FTTx.

Crouse said that he has seen a significant growth in fibre access skills from ISP employees – a domain which was previously only relevant in large operators. The growth in fibre related network skills in ISPs bodes well for South Africa’s broadband future.

With ISPs growing their in-house FTTx skills, it becomes easier for them to start trialling and even roll out fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) services in future.

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Making fibre broadband access possible in SA