Many fibre customers have complained they have not received free line speed upgrades offered to them by their fibre network operators (FNOs).
A number of FNOs and ISPs have in recent weeks indicated they will upgrade customers’ line speeds for free for a limited time.
These promotions come at a time when many South Africans are making increased use of the Internet, as they are stuck at home during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Four FNOs confirmed they would be upgrading their line speeds at no extra charge to customers. They include Frogfoot, Link Africa, MetroFibre, and Vumatel.
Link Africa said it upgraded its fibre line speeds from 17 March and the upgrades will stay in effect for four months until 17 July.
MetroFibre started upgrading its users’ packages with a bandwidth increase from 26 March. This upgrade will be implemented for two months until 25 May.
Vumatel and Frogfoot indicated that the line speeds of their users would automatically be increased from 1 April. Vumatel’s promotion is set to last until the end of May, while Frogfoot will keep the upgrades in place until 30 June.
From 1 April, however, many customers reported they had still not seen their speeds increase.
MyBroadband asked the FNOs when they expected their speed upgrades to be completed.
Frogfoot said it started its line speed upgrades on 29 March and as of midday on 2 April, close to 70% of the links had received their increases.
The operator said delays occurred because of complications such as CPEs being down due to power issues, but it was working through the problems.
Another issue was the fact that the upgraded lines would be available to new sign-ups during the promotional period, which meant an entirely new product had to be created.
“All these migrations are automatically re-configured via our auto-provisioning,” the company said.
Frogfoot told MyBroadband it aimed to have line speed upgrades completed by 6 April.
“This is a free initiative to customers that we think we have decided upon and implemented in record time,” the company said.
“It was our intention to get this live by 1 April, but we have run into some practical issues that have made the process more complicated than expected. We are committed to give all customers their Double Up speeds as soon as possible,” it said.
MetroFibre’s upgrade promotion differs from the other FNOs in that it may require certain ISPs to upgrade their network-to-network interface (NNI) capacity at their own cost to be able to offer the speed upgrades to their customers.
Major ISPs which indicated they would participate in the promotion include:
Cool Ideas stated they would not be participating in MetroFibre’s promotion, while MWEB said it was not certain of its participation.
MetroFibre confirmed that all links on its network had been upgraded by an additional 10Mbps. This included those of direct, ISP, reseller and other clients.
This was completed over a two-day implementation on 26 and 27 March.
“All direct customers, ISPs and reseller have been given the increased speed,” it said.
The operator also explained how these upgrades could take time.
“It depends on the provisioning and network architecture deployed. For MetroFibre, it involved implementing a script which increased the speed, but does not affect the billing. This was completed last week already,” the company said.
It noted that ISP clients may need some time to pass speed upgrades to their customers and advised customers to contact their ISPs if they experienced difficulties.
“Our approach was to ease the constraints where they would most likely exist first, notably on subscribers with lower speeds. ISPs and resellers are independent organisations in their own right and plan their capacity and management thereof independently,” the company stated.
“The stability and capacity on our network remain our focus and priority, all changes are done with this in mind,” it added.
Vumatel notified subscribers it would roll out its promised fibre line speed upgrades in phases.
“The rollout of our line speed upgrades is underway. This will be done in a planned and structured manner, starting with the lower speed services and specific areas first and we anticipate that all upgrades will be completed in the next few days,” Vumatel stated.
“We are working closely with the ISPs to monitor the upgrades and evaluate the impact on the ISPs interconnects and will stay in close communication with them during this time,” it noted.
“Collectively we believe this a responsible approach, ultimately aimed at ensuring that we can deliver on our commitment to keeping homes connected at higher speeds over the next two months.”
Cool Ideas told MyBroadband that it expected Vumatel to upgrade 10/2Mbps and 10/10Mbps lines first, starting at 12:00 on 1 April. 20Mbps and 50Mbps lines were set to follow on 2 April, while 100Mbps and 200Mbps lines would be upgraded on 3 April.
Link Africa confirmed that all the upgrades on its network for existing clients were performed on 17 March, while new connections received their upgrades on 25 March.
It noted that it had ordered and activated more backhaul infrastructure to have sufficient capacity to provision double bandwidth scripts to all of its 26 ISP partners.
“Whilst it is difficult to determine how many received increased speeds as this ultimately depends on the number of ISPs who extend the offer, we have enabled all our existing connections which totalled 3800 end users,” the operator said.
It explained that while the process may take 48 hours for testing and monitoring the potential impact of changes on its network, delays occur when aligning configurations and promotion terms with the ISPs.
“Before any promotions are launched from the ISP’s end, they also need to lodge a submission to ICASA. This regulatory submission then has to sit with ICASA for 7 working days before ISPs can go to market with new deals,” the company explained.
Link Africa said that customers may have to reboot their routers to receive upgraded speeds.
“In some instances, there may be router limitations at play, however, this is generally for higher end line speeds which typically have the correct routers,” the operator added.
The company said it had seen a “significant spike” in bandwidth requirements over the course of last week.
“One of our providers have experienced up to 300% increase in bandwidth consumption which is a clear indicator that South Africans are in need of reliable connectivity as they seek to remain productive and entertained during this challenging time,” Link Africa said.
To meet this need, Link Africa has extended the promotion to all new connections signing up until 30 June.
“As the telecommunications industry is rightfully considered an essential service, any new orders received will still be fulfilled during the lockdown,” Link Africa stated.