The two guys who built a world-class ISP in Port Elizabeth

Franco Barbalich and Andrew Simpson achieved something really special — building a nationally competitive Internet service provider (ISP) in Gqeberha (previously known as Port Elizabeth).

Barbalich founded Axxess in his one-bedroom flat in 1997. At the time, it was called Axxess Africa and only offered website hosting and design.

It was the dawn of the Internet in South Africa, and Barbalich soon realised there was a growing market for access services.

Axxess Africa expanded its product offering to include analogue dial-up services and Internet access through four Internet Cafes.

It rebranded to Axxess and started to offer a range of products and services, including hardware and business connectivity.

In 2008, the company launched over 600 Wi-Fi hotspots across South Africa and won the ISP of the Year award for the first time.

In 2009, Andrew Simpson joined the company as director with a mission to disrupt the broadband market further.

Barbalich and Simpson focused on offering the best value-for-money products backed by world-class service levels.

A good example of this strategy was launching the most affordable mobile data in South Africa with three-month data rollover. It was groundbreaking at the time.

The strategy of affordable services and great support worked. Axxess was named ISP of the Year twice more – in 2009 and 2015 – and the business flourished.

Axxess achieved such strong growth that it required a bigger office. In 2013, Axxess moved into its new offices in Port Elizabeth.

The growth continued, and a few years later, Axxess was again looking for more office space to host its workforce, which expanded to over 200 employees.

The ISP partnered with Bradshaw Architects and BSP Construction to design and build the second phase of its head office.

Situated along the popular business district in Cape Road, Port Elizabeth, Axxess’ new building boasts an ultra-modern look based on the latest design concepts.

The corporate colours are used in two main elements of the building — the street-facing façade and the east side — which is a focal point of traffic on Cape Road.

The minimalist design aims to keep the focus on the building’s shape, and signage complements the design.

What makes Axxess unique is that it is the only top South African Internet service provider outside Gauteng and Cape Town.

It is an iconic business in the Gqeberha region, and South Africa’s oldest cricket test venue was even renamed Axxess DSL St Georges following a sponsorship deal in 2009.

Simpson said to this day, it remains of utmost importance for them to be there for their clients and invest in the latest systems and technologies.

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The two guys who built a world-class ISP in Port Elizabeth