MyBroadband has received several reports of fibre customers encountering difficulty cancelling their fibre packages, and moving to a new ISP, in recent weeks.
Readers reported that upon cancelling their fibre package, the migration of their line to a new ISP was delayed by the old ISP’s inability to release the line into a holding pool, or incompatibility with older systems.
Ideally, switching fibre ISPs would be as simple as scheduling cancellation with your current ISP while ordering a package with the new service provider to take effect after the cancellation.
The old ISP would then release the customer’s line into a holding pool, where the new ISP could assign the line to their package without making any hardware changes.
In this scenario, the customer would have minimum downtime and would not have to resolve anything beyond the cancelling and purchasing of packages.
Things do not always go this smoothly, however.
For example, a MyBroadband reader who switched from Afrihost to Cool Ideas on an Openserve fibre line said he had to wait for Openserve to replace his GPON ONT with a new device.
To find out more about ISP migration issues, MyBroadband spoke to major South African ISPs about the process.
Cool Ideas co-owner Paul Butschi told MyBroadband that it operates on over 30 fibre network operators, each of which has its own process – making the migration of a line relatively complex.
Butschi gave a few examples of the different processes for migration between service providers.
“On Vumatel trenched the existing ISP would usually set the line to ‘cancel’ after their 30 days, or sooner if the customer elects to do so,” he said.
“Once the line is released, we can order a new Cool Ideas service for that object.”
He said that Vumatel Aerial has a different portal which functions along the same lines, but there can be provisioning issues which require manual intervention from Vumatel and can delay the process.
Butschi also noted that Metrofibre and SADV may provide customers with their own ONT, which may require customers who use them as their ISP to change their physical device when switching to a third-party provider.
He said that migration on Openserve worked similarly to Vumatel, with no physical intervention required if things went well.
“If Telkom retail is the ISP on an Openserve line, the customer needs to cancel the service with Telkom Retail and apply for a new service with the third-party ISP,” added Butschi.
“This then triggers the ONT swap, but obviously delays the move process quite a bit and can be a nightmare to orchestrate.”
Webafrica product director Greg Wright told MyBroadband that the ISP only takes control of the line once the previous ISP has released it.
“We ask whether or not a customer has a fibre box (CPE/ONT) installed in their home before checkout,” Wright said.
“If they affirm there is, then they have either moved homes or are switching ISPs, more often than not it is the latter.”
This allows Webafrica’s fibre provisioning team to place the order with the network and expedite the activation due to the fact that there is no physical installation required.
He added that when customers cancel accounts to move to a new ISP, Webafrica follows the procedure outlined by the fibre network.
“Some infrastructure providers have a ‘holding pool’, whereby the new ISP can apply to pick up the transferred line. For others we simply follow the normal cancellation procedure with the provider,” Wright said.
“We haven’t experienced a situation whereby a new CPE needs to be installed simply for switching ISPs,” he added.
“However, we have experienced situations whereby we’ve been billed the full installation fee – and not just a connection fee or similar – for a customer who already has a working CPE device in the home before switching to us.”
Afrihost said that when clients cancel their service, they should take note of any cancellation terms and fees with their previous ISP.
“The client must make payment in full to their previous ISP. We make arrangements with the provider to transfer the line to Afrihost’s management,” the company said.
“For applicable providers, Afrihost will cover the reactivation fee and router, and can also credit the client’s Afrihost account with the cost of the cancellation fee.”
Afrihost said it has a 30-day cancellation policy – thereafter users must sign up with their new ISP, and the ISP will arrange for the fibre line to be migrated.
“Afrihost does charge a standard cancellation fee of R999 for clients who have claimed our R4,000 promotion – if cancelled within six months of signup,” it added.
The ISP added that a CPE or ONT change is generally not required.
“The CPE device is required by the fibre operator to connect to their network infrastructure and therefore does not usually affect the choice of ISP,” Afrihost said.
“However, if the client changes from one provider to another – such as from Vuma to Frogfoot – then the new provider will install a new CPE that suits their network infrastructure.”
Additionally, the provider may need to swop the ONT or CPE device if the new ISP has different methods of provisioning: PPPoE vs DHCP, for example.
Vox FTTH senior product manager Claire Williamson told MyBroadband that customers with existing fibre lines must tell the ISP this information.
“It’s important for the customer to advise us upfront that he has an existing fibre line, that he is changing ISP, and he will also need to provide us with the existing unique line reference number,” Williamson said.
“This helps us to ensure that we follow the relevant order process with the infrastructure provider.”
The customer is also required to log a cancellation request with their current ISP and see out their notice period – as a fibre line can only be provisioned for one ISP at a time.
Williamson said that the CPE or ONT should not need to be replaced when switching ISPs.
“In some instances, if we are not made aware upfront by the customer that they have an existing line, we would process a new line order, but if there is an existing line that is active with another ISP, our order request would be rejected,” she said.
The main dependency for a changeover to take effect with minimal delays is for both the cancellation and activation of the service to be actioned timeously, Williamson said.
MWEB told MyBroadband that a customer looking to switch ISPs should file for cancellation and their new package at the same time.
“The customer would need to cancel their product with their current ISP and have their fibre line released by that ISP,” MWEB said.
“At the same time, the customer will sign up for fibre with their new ISP.”
MWEB said that certain fees may apply depending on the fibre operator, and that installation is not required in most cases.
The ISP added that the fibre line and equipment may need to be checked when a customer moves away from MWEB, and if any equipment was removed it would need to be replaced.
“A new CPE may be required if the previous ISP removed the original one issued to customer or if the CPE was faulty,” the company said.