'Free' broadband fibre roll-out for SA

Cape Town - The dream of unlimited fibre broadband is a step closer for South Africans with the anticipated national roll-out of 123Net Fibre.

The company currently has operations in KwaZulu-Natal and has its eye on national rollout plans for fibre to the home (FTTH).

In the company's brochure, fibre broadband offers start with a no-contract 5mbps line linked to a R3 600 "construction fee" which can be paid in full upfront or in 12 monthly instalments of R300 per month.

Following that, the uncapped service is free to the subscriber, according to the company's brochure.

"We have opened our website signup for the whole SA, in order to gather information on the fibre demand. Once we have enough requests from a certain area/suburb we will add it to our roll-out plans and try to react as soon as possible," CEO Kalin Bogatzevski told Fin24.

Costs

Meanwhile, the mid-range package on offer from 123Net Fibre is a 1gbps (gigabit per second) line with a R1 500 construction fee and monthly subscription of R799.

The top-line package has a similar line speed, but boasts a upload/download speed of 100mbps, 10 times that of the mid-range package.

For that you'll pay R1 999 per month and on all packages, the network box is included.

The company currently offers services in Herrwood Park, La Lucia, Prestondale, Somerset Park, Sunningdale, Umhlanga, Umhlanga Ridge, Umhlanga Rocks and Woodlands but cautioned that the strategy to roll out fibre has to be efficient.

KwaZulu-Natal may the the first province in the country to have access to affordable fibre broadband. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

"We build out an area strategically, deploying resources where they can be put to work. Rather than having to go from street A to street B, we can build street J and then F and then S, if that makes more sense, and then connect them as we get adjacent streets completed," said 123Net Fibre.

The firm is also the lead bidder for the Constantia Fibre project in the Western Cape, competing against major players such as Vodacom, MTN and Telkom.

Fibre broadband is becoming a reality for South Africans long hamstrung by slow and expensive internet access.

National rollout plan

The government's South Africa Connect: Creating Opportunities, Ensuring Inclusion South Africa's Broadband Policy specifically criticises broadband in SA.

"The slow deployment of fixed broadband services (ADSL), and its relatively high costs, meant that over the last five years mobile broadband rapidly became the primary form of broadband access; rather than providing a complementary service to fixed broadband as it has done in mature economies."

MWEB recently announced a FTTH offering starting at R999 per month for a 20mbps line speed capped at 100GB per month. That goes up to R2 849 on 100mbps capped at 500GB.

Despite 123Net Fibre's ambition to deliver broadband fibre at low cost, questions remain on whether its current offer is sustainable over a national rollout plan.

National broadband policy indicates that funding for broadband networks faces huge constraints.

"Funding requirements for the effective roll-out of broadband are beyond the capacity of either the government or the private sector alone," reads the policy.

The policy recommends partnerships on open access networks as best practice in more developed economies as the most efficient way to roll out services.

"Funding models that share investment risk between the public and private sector are emerging across the globe as the burden for funding cannot be carried by government or private sector alone."

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