Free MetroFibre speed upgrades – Not so free for ISPs

MetroFibre recently announced it was upgrading the line speeds of existing users on its network for free – but this does not tell the full story.

When Vumatel announced it was doubling the line speeds of fibre subscribers on its network to help people work from home and stream educational services, MetroFibre was quick to announce its own speed upgrades.

MetroFibre stated it would roll out a 10Mbps speed upgrade to all lines from 26 March 2020.

What MetroFibre did not tell consumers is that it has essentially passed all the costs for these upgrades on to Internet service providers (ISPs).

While it is easy for MetroFibre to upgrade the line speeds, ISPs must foot the bill for more bandwidth to serve their subscribers.

A sticking point is MetroFibre’s network-to-network interface (NNI) charge, which rises as capacity increases.

Many ISPs expected MetroFibre to give them free NNI upgrades along with the free line speed upgrades, but this did not happen.

What irks ISPs is that MetroFibre created customer expectation without fully explaining the situation to subscribers.

This is because MetroFibre also runs its own Internet service provider. The company sent out emails to its direct customers announcing the upgrades, resulting in the company receiving praise for its efforts on social media.

Fibre subscribers with different ISPs, but whose connections still run on MetroFibre’s fibre infrastructure, were quick to contact their ISPs to ask if they would be participating in the “free” upgrade.

ISPs feel that this placed undue pressure on them to upgrade their NNI capacity with MetroFibre.


MetroFibre – NNI upgrade the ISP’s contribution to its customers

When asked for comment on the matter, MetroFibre said it wanted to give people on smaller packages enough bandwidth to work from home, educate children, and keep in contact with friends and family.

“Resellers will be able to give their customers the additional 10Mbps provided they have capacity,” MetroFibre said.

“If they do not have enough capacity on their cross connect, they would need to increase it with us first and then pass it on to their customers, which would be their contribution to their customers.”


Participating ISPs

MyBroadband contacted several ISPs to find out if they were participating in MetroFibre’s free line speed upgrades. The feedback we received is summarised below.


Level-7

Level-7 confirmed it will be participating.

“In actual fact, our system has already been set to allow an extra 10Mbps per customer on MetroFibre and we are just waiting for them to update all of their [optical network unit] devices,” Level-7 said.

“We doubled our ENNI just before lockdown as we were expecting MetroFibre to offer all clients double their current throughput similar to other fibre network operators.”

Level-7 said it is supporting the line speed upgrades on other fibre network operators too.


RSAWEB

RSAWEB said it will be collaborating with MetroFibre to offer clients increased bandwidth until 27 May 2020.

“With this offer, you will receive a complimentary 10Mbps increase on your bandwidth speed,” said RSAWEB.

All customers were automatically upgraded from 27 March, it added.

“Please note this is only applicable to existing MetroFibre clients who are live and connected as of 31 March 2020.”


MWEB

MWEB told MyBroadband it is not certain of its participation.

“We have not had any formal communication from MetroFibre or their terms,” MWEB said.

“We have reached out to them and as soon as we have the details we’ll make a decision. We are implementing the promotions offered by other fibre network operators.”


Vox

Vox stated it will be participating in MetroFibre’s line speed upgrades, though it did not have to upgrade its NNI capacity.

“Currently we believe we have sufficient capacity. This will be monitored very closely and if upgrades are required on the NNI, we will engage with MetroFibre on this and implement accordingly,” said Henda Edwardes, executive head for carrier and connectivity at Vox.


Afrihost

Afrihost did not respond to requests for comment, but it did respond to subscribers on social media.

“This won’t be running for MetroFibre,” Afrihost said in response to a question about the line speed upgrades.

“Sadly [MetroFibre] hasn’t confirmed speed upgrades for free.”


Cool Ideas

Cool Ideas stated it would not upgrade its NNI capacity and therefore would not be participating in MetroFibre’s line speed upgrades.

It has asked MetroFibre to reconsider and provide free NNI upgrades for the duration of the promotion.


Update – MetroFibre statement

Following the publication of this article, MetroFibre provided the below statement regarding line speed upgrades on its network.

The majority of our ISPs have already implemented and are offering the 10mbps speed upgrades to their customers.  These ISPs have not needed to increase their network-to-network interface (NNI) as they were already appropriately capacitated from the outset to provide these services to their FTTH customers.

To date the feedback has shown that the 10mbps speed upgrades have been more than sufficient for customer needs during this time.

Any expectation from certain ISPs that the backhaul capacity would be upgraded and approached on a blanket basis without any engagement on a proper needs assessment and risk analysis is flawed for a number of reasons.

The reality is that the majority of ISPs that required an upgrade to their backhaul capacity have already approached MetroFibre through the appropriate and established channels and each and every case has been assessed based on their requirements and assisted.

These ISPs are able to pass the benefits of the line speed upgrades onto their customers and have already done so from last week.  It is incumbent on each ISP to make the necessary contact and arrangements in this regard.

Most ISPs already have 10gig ENIs and thus have more than enough capacity to service their FTTH clients accordingly, without any further upgrades.  Smaller ISPs may not necessarily have this capacity, but in reality may not need it as they have much smaller client volumes, and could pass on the line speed upgrades to their existing client base without further upgrades.

An upgrade to the NNI for the ISP is an inexpensive exercise and one that is handled on a case by case basis following the appropriate needs analysis.  We urge any ISP to liaise directly with Metrofibre’s wholesale division who will look into their needs and assist them accordingly.

As Metrofibre Networx, we are committed to ensuring the integrity of our network and to ensure that our customers get the service and line speeds that they need to remain operational during this time.  It is essential that we work through any remaining valid issues, if any, in a process that is coordinated and legitimate, through dialogue, transparency and co-operation.

We are confident of our standards and processes and that these are in the best interests of maintaining reliable and stable connectivity for all our customers during these uncertain and challenging times.

Now read: Free Internet speed upgrades during lockdown in South Africa – All the details

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Free MetroFibre speed upgrades – Not so free for ISPs