Improving fibre connectivity in South Africa is a collaborative effort

It is critical for all players to work together to ensure that South Africans get access to cheap, high-quality Internet services.

This is according to Marius Engelbrecht, senior strategy consultant at Huawei, who was speaking on a recent webinar hosted by Estate Living, a specialist communication agency for the residential estate and mixed-use development industry in South Africa and Mauritius.

Engelbrecht stated that to achieve this a collaborative model is the best way to go, and this has been proven in various other countries.

Engelbrecht cited the example of the UK government’s partnership with OpenReach, which is BT’s local access network business.

Both OpenReach and the UK government worked with the Home Builder’s Federation on an agreement which aimed to deliver superfast broadband to newly-built properties in the UK.

Engelbrecht said this partnership has been extremely successful and the hope is that a similar model could be replicated in South Africa.

Ensuring broadband services such as fibre are installed – or provision is made for them to be installed – when new buildings are erected makes activating an Internet package with an ISP or similar service provide much simpler down the line.

This means that homes and offices can turn on a fibre connection in a matter of hours after moving in, as opposed to waiting for installation to take place – which can often take several weeks for fixed-line services.

The importance of a streamlined fibre installation processes

Engelbrecht also highlighted the importance of efficiency in driving a competitive and customer-centric fibre market by ensuring all parties in the fibre installation process are on the same page.

In China, if a customer applies for a service and it is not activated the same day, the operator in some instances will provide “compensation” as is done by China Telecoms.

“Where I stay in the Centurion area, I had to wait for two years,” he added, citing personal experience.

Engelbrecht added that the lack of widespread broadband infrastructure in South Africa will be a bigger problem in the future, as COVID-19 is driving people to “semigrate” from metros to smaller municipalities.

“I cannot move there because I need continuity and to be working remotely,” Engelbrecht explained.

“Fibre is critical infrastructure that allows us to do everything we need to do.”

The importance of being proactive

Eugene Slabbert, representing the Digital Council Africa (DCA) echoed this sentiment and explained it is important that companies who are building new homes and offices “pre-fibre” during construction.

“We need to bring back the old strategy of the ‘Telkom Room’ in newly built buildings – only with fibre,” Slabbert said.

He also lamented the lack of action in installing fibre sleeves or ducts when roads are being built or fixed.

“We need to be installing infrastructure pre-emptively. What is very important is that this requires dialogue – particularly around the ownership of infrastructure,” said Slabbert.

Waiting for wayleaves and permissions to roll-out fibre along public roads or areas is currently a major barrier to speedy deployments in South Africa.

Additionally, by pre-ducting public roads and pavements, the cost of installing fibre will drop as less time and money will be spent on trenching and laying new fibre paths.

Click here to watch the webinar.

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Improving fibre connectivity in South Africa is a collaborative effort