How South African networks decide which towns get fibre

While fibre is becoming increasingly prevalent in South Africa’s major centres, there are many South Africans who live outside of these areas who also seek fibre connectivity.

Fibre network operators have therefore begun to connect their networks to smaller South African towns – but this is not always easy.

Leading South African fibre network provider Vumatel told MyBroadband that one of the biggest challenges for the rollout of fibre in more towns and cities is the cost of backhaul.

This is particularly evident as one moves further away from larger metros into “secondary cities” and smaller, outer-lying towns.

Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) agreed with this sentiment.

“Infrastructure deployment is capital intensive, and one of the key challenges we face is meeting the return profiles when deploying infrastructure,” said DFA.

“Accelerating the revenue realisation through quicker permissions-granting as well as the associated costs for permissions, rights of way, and building access has a significant impact on improving the return profiles and supporting the accelerated deployment of infrastructure.”

DFA said that for this reason, it actively engages with municipalities as well as property owners on these issues and look at solutions that help to resolve them.

Which cities have fibre

Vumatel told MyBroadband that its focus has primarily been on the major metropolitan areas of Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.

“In addition to our emerging market areas in the Western Cape and Gauteng, we have also recently extended our footprint to Polokwane and Vereeniging,” said Vumatel.

It said that in total, its fibre network passes nearly 800,000 homes.

It said it continues to evaluate the interest expressed by homeowners and municipalities alike, and it is committed to making fibre available to more South Africans.

DFA said its network is also at its most dense in the country’s major metropolitan areas of Johannesburg, Tshwane, Durban, and Cape Town.

“This accounts for roughly two-thirds of our total coverage,” said DFA.

“Our long-haul routes run through or past a number of large and small towns, accounting for the second-largest portion of our coverage.”

The main cities and towns where DFA has coverage that is not covered by the two aforementioned situations are:

  • Klerksdorp
  • Bloemfontein
  • Port Elizabeth
  • Polokwane
  • Rustenburg
  • Pietermaritzburg
  • George
  • Middelburg

DFA said the rest of its small-town network is split across about 12 other towns.

“We are continuously looking at ways and models to extend coverage to areas in a commercially feasible way,” said DFA.

DFA said its decision making when it comes to rolling out to new towns and cities is led by the density of customer demand.

“We are continuously densifying the network in the major metros and expanding to smaller towns, as that is where the key demand is derived from,” said DFA.

“In addition to this, we also follow demand from the mobile network operators, which is a key segment of ours, and this is leading us to look more into the peri-urban areas where there is pent-up demand for mobile backhaul on fibre.”

Now read: South Africa now has the third-cheapest broadband prices in the world

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How South African networks decide which towns get fibre