Fibre war in South Africa heats up

South Africa’s biggest fibre network operators are in a heated battle, cutting prices and increasing line speeds to win over customers.

Over the past two years, the prices of fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) packages have come down significantly as demand has surged and rollouts have reached hundreds of thousands more households.

The Covid-19 pandemic saw Internet traffic climb exponentially as people spent more time working and relaxing at home — with entertainment video streaming and conferencing increasing in particular.

Several fibre network operators (FNOs) introduced free line speed double-up promotions to help Internet service providers (ISPs) handle this surge.

But even after life gradually returned to normal, traffic remained high as consumers grew accustomed to their hungrier consumption habits.

Frogfoot was one of the first to implement its upgrades permanently.

However, Openserve blew the field wide open with substantial line speed increases and price cuts to ISPs in February 2021.

These changes made its packages significantly cheaper than most major FNOs.

Its biggest competitor — Vumatel — endured harsh criticism from customers for not also dropping its prices.

So significant were these changes that a recent report from Analytico showed that Openserve had become the most preferred FNO in South Africa.

That is despite it being owned and operated by Telkom, which still contends with its ill fame for monopolising fixed-line Internet in the country.

Consumers have appeared willing to forgive the company for its past sins — with price being the decisive factor.

Although Openserve now holds favour in the middle-class fibre market, Vumatel has been taking significant strides in another market.

The country’s biggest FNO has already pushed into lower-income areas with Vuma Reach, offering more affordable uncapped fibre packages on a prepaid basis.

This product has proved so successful that Vumatel is trialling a new Vuma Key service aimed at households with monthly incomes below R5,000.

Openserve and Frogfoot have also launched more affordable entry-level fibre products in select areas — dubbed Openserve Web Connect and Frogfoot Air.

To better compete with Vumatel, Openserve made its 20Mbps Web Connect product available on prepaid terms, making them easier to buy for households with inconsistent income.

MetroFibre and Vumatel recently doubled line speeds and reduced prices on most of their packages, significantly reducing Openserve’s price advantage.

MyBroadband found that MetroFibre was now neck-and-neck with Openserve regarding the pricing of entry-level packages from several popular ISPs.

However, at 50Mbps and 100Mbps, MetroFibre seems to be the best-priced option.

Vumatel’s promotional speed double-up, which will last until end-January 2023, has also made its higher-end packages — from 200Mbps to 1Gbps — highly competitive.

To illustrate how the prices of the four major FNOs currently compare, we analysed their products from three major ISPs — Afrihost, RSAWeb, and Cool Ideas.

We did not include the FNO’s lower-income-focused packages, as these have very limited coverage.

Fibre-to-the-home prices compared
Network  Download/Upload speed Afrihost RSAWeb Cool Ideas
Frogfoot 30/3Mbps R527 R625 R749*
MetroFibre 20/20Mbps R497 R485 R489
Openserve 25/10Mbps R497 R545 R549
Vumatel 20/10Mbps R649
Frogfoot 50/5Mbps R727 R809 R849*
MetroFibre 50/50Mbps R697 R685 R699
Openserve 50/25Mbps R697 R695 R749
Vumatel 50/50Mbps R729 R695 R749
Frogfoot 100/100Mbps R827 R909 R949*
MetroFibre 100/100Mbps R897 R845 R899
Openserve 100/50Mbps R947 R915 R999
Vumatel 100/100Mbps R929 R895 R929
Frogfoot 200/200Mbps R1,047 R1,095 R1,199*
MetroFibre 200/200Mbps R1,097 R995 R1,099
Openserve 200/100Mbps R1,167 R1,095 R1,199
Vumatel 200/200Mbps R1,049 R995 R1,099
Frogfoot 500/500Mbps R1,347 R1,495 R1,499
MetroFibre 500/500Mbps R1,297 R1,195 R1,299
Openserve 500/250Mbps R1,347 R1,235 R1,399
Vumatel 500/200Mbps R1,199 R1,145 R1,149
Frogfoot 1,000/1,000Mbps R1,547 R1,649 R1,699
MetroFibre 1,000/250Mbps R1,797 R1,695 R1,799
Vumatel 1,000/200Mbps R1,499 R1,495 R1,499
*All of Cool Ideas’ Frogfoot packages are symmetrical, which explains why they might be the most expensive in some cases.

Now read: Vuma Core, Vuma Reach, and Vuma Key — Vumatel’s three services explained

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Fibre war in South Africa heats up