In March, Vumatel announced it would, in partnership with local ISPs, upgrade the line speeds of existing users on the fibre network at no additional cost.
The free speed upgrades between 1 April and 31 May 2020 were aimed at assisting people who work from home and to stream educational services.
“We have a responsibility to make it easier for people to stay connected as they navigate the next few weeks of working and learning from home,” Vumatel CCO Simon Butler said.
On 3 April, Vumatel announced it was extending its fibre line speed upgrade initiative to the end of June 2020, a month longer than the original date of 31 May.
This was widely welcomed by Vumatel subscribers who received speed upgrades during the lockdown.
There was, however, a group of users who did not receive speed upgrades. This is partly because not all ISPs were included in the upgrade initiative.
Vumatel has been accused of giving some ISPs preference over others in the past, and this accusation has raised its head again in this case.
Selective speed upgrades
One ISP executive, who asked to remain anonymous, told MyBroadband that Vumatel’s lockdown speed upgrade is “selective”.
He said they made all the network changes to support the Vumatel speed upgrades, but it never happened.
“It turns out you only had a small window to agree to be part of the speed upgrade. If you did not do it within that window, you missed out,” he said.
He added that there was no mention of a compulsory opt-in or a cut-off date when they engaged with Vumatel about the upgrades.
The executive said they asked Vumatel to please upgrade their subscribers, but the company refused.
Vumatel told them the upgrade period – from 1 April to 30 June – is fixed and it is therefore not possible to upgrade subscribers after 1 April who were not provisioned before that.
He said Vumatel’s refusal to upgrade subscribers after 1 April is not on. “It is absolutely unbelievable that they can so bluntly give preference to some ISPs over others,” he said.
Vumatel told MyBroadband the rollout of its line speed relief initiative commenced on 1 April and were completed by 7 April.
“By taking a more measured and responsible approach, we delivered on our commitment to keep homes connected, at the higher speeds,” the company said.
“Where there were isolated cases where users had not been upgraded as part of the bulk upgrades, and who raised this with their ISPs, we resolved these almost immediately,” the company said.
“We have had no further requests since the middle of April.”
Vumatel said the process of ensuring that it could quickly and efficiently provide line speed relief to its partner ISPs meant it needed to adhere to strict timelines.
“This was a mammoth undertaking, and we initiated communication with all of our ISPs on 20 March,” Vumatel said.
This, the company said, was to understand their willingness and capacity to deliver a higher line speed to their customers.
“This initiative required an opt-in from ISPs and was not something we would dictate to our ISPs and leave indefinitely in terms of turnaround times,” it said.
Vumatel said 58 ISPs chose to participate in its speed upgrade initiative, making up over 99% of its total subscriber base.
“These ISPs have been very supportive throughout the phased rollout and instrumental in making this initiative successful,” it said.