If anything, the national lockdown has shown the importance of having access to reliable, high-speed internet, and it is no different when it comes to the smaller cities and towns that lie beyond South Africa’s major urban centres.
This is backed up by the demand that Frogfoot Networks, a licensed open-access fibre network provider, has noticed when rolling out its infrastructure in Bloemfontein.
“As a small city in the middle of the country, Bloemfontein is often easily overlooked in terms of its connectivity and bandwidth requirements. However, our strategy has been to bring fibre to areas which have previously been underserviced. We recognised their need for fibre, and saw it as an opportunity to expand our footprint,” said Llewelyn Hofmeyr, Chief Operations Officer at Frogfoot, who happens to have grown up in Bloem himself.
Shortly after entering the fibre industry, Hofmeyr was involved in a metro project in Bloemfontein, to roll out fibre to cellphone towers for the mobile industry. It was here that he realised how underserviced tier 2 towns and cities in South Africa were – but that it would also take a while for fibre networks in these areas to become a reality.
Frogfoot began its build in Langenhoven Park in April 2018, with the first zones going live in early September of the same year. Bloemfontein’s appetite for high speed fibre was evident in the uptake, with over half of the homes passed opting to get connected. To date over 460km of fibre has been laid, with the network passing (has the potential to connect) over 21 000 homes, including those located inside precincts and complexes.
“As we progressed with our expansion through the city we found an increased interest in fibre. Our biggest growth was seen in March and April this year with the national lockdown resulting in an influx of orders as more people started working from home,” said Hofmeyr.
A better user experience
Fibre provides the community with a cost effective and reliable connection to the Internet, providing superfast download speeds for quicker web browsing and seamless on-demand video streaming. Lower latency makes it better for online gaming. And more recently, it has enabled people to work and learn from home, whether through video conferencing or specialised applications.
“Due to the current crisis we are facing and not being able to go to work, we have had to adjust to working online from home and running all meetings via Zoom. It has enabled me to connect with colleagues, and has allowed my wife, who is a principal to send her staff and learners work. Fibre has allowed my wife and I to both work effectively, without any interruptions or buffering,” said Francois Marais, the Manager of extended curriculum activities at the University of the Free State.
Businesses for their part can use fibre to increase transactions, host more meetings and webinars online and use more software. Fibre to the business provides quality data, making it perfect for voice and video.
A growing number of companies are also using cloud-based services, which means that they don’t have to spend on their own IT infrastructure. This has transformed the way in which business is being conducted.
As part of the efforts to help tackle Covid-19, Frogfoot announced a doubling of line speeds for customers, for a limited period of time. What is seen is that customers with a better connection tend to use the Internet more: customers who were on 10 and 20Mbps lines, and had their line speeds doubled, consumed up to 30% more data than usual.
“We launched a successful double up campaign in April. We have found that the overwhelming trend is that many of these customers are happy to continue their upgraded line speed. People understand the benefit of a reliable connection to the Internet and that fibre is the medium to meet today’s data hungry world,” explained Hofmeyr.
Fibre beyond the big cities
To cater for this need, Frogfoot has rolled out its fibre network in most of the city’s major suburbs, with plans to expand coverage to adjacent areas, as well as potentially any of the new residential developments that are planned or already underway in the city.
“During the initial phases of our network expansion, I felt strong about highlighting the potential of Bloemfontein, which was somewhat overlooked up to that point, and to bring fibre to an underserviced area that I knew needed it. It really was a great feeling to bring such an exciting technology to my hometown. It is a rewarding feeling when I hear of happy customers that get connected!” added Hofmeyr.
And, it’s not just Bloemfontein, Frogfoot’s strategic focus has been to bring fibre to secondary towns across South Africa, including the likes of East London, Ermelo, George, Kimberley, Mossel Bay, Pietermaritzburg, Polokwane, Richards Bay, and others.
As for Bloemfontein itself, fibre has been rolled out in most of the city’s major suburbs, with plans to expand coverage to adjacent areas, and potentially any new residential developments.