Home fibre player scales back - TechCentral

Home fibre player scales back

Rikus Matthyser ... left Link Africa on 1 August

Rikus Matthyser … left Link Africa on 1 August

Link Africa, the fibre communications company previously known as i3 Africa, has scaled back its business, closing its Johannesburg office and ending its plans, at least for now, to build fibre-to-the-home infrastructure in South Africa’s big cities.

TechCentral has learnt that 15 managers, including the company’s CEO, Rikus Matthyser, have left. Matthyser, who was on a contract with Link Africa, has confirmed that he has not been at the company since 1 August.

When it was launched in 2011, the company had promised to build fibre infrastructure into 2,5m South African homes using patented technologies to deploy communications infrastructure through cities’ sewerage and water systems, obviating the need for expensive civil works.

Link Africa said at the time that it planned to offer 100Mbit/s broadband in six South African cities — Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein and Pretoria — at prices that compared favourably to Telkom’s digital subscriber lines.

The business was backed by businessmen Cornelis Groesbeek and Andrew Mthembu, both of whom have years of experience in the telecommunications industry.

Other shareholders included the National Empowerment Fund, Durban businessman Martin Cele and investment banker Craig Carthy.

Matthyser had promised as recently as November 2012 that Link Africa intended to begin rolling out home fibre in at least one South African city in 2013. He also told TechCentral in an interview that the company had secured approval from the City of Tshwane (Pretoria) to run fibre infrastructure through Pretoria’s sewer and waste-water service networks and planned to deploy 2 000km of fibre over a five-year period. The company later issued a press release in which it confirmed the deal.

However, the city disputed the contents of Link Africa’s media statement, saying it had “instituted an internal investigation into this project”. It claimed that “due process was not followed”.

The company now says it will focus exclusively on the Durban metropolitan area, where it has rights of way from the eThekwini municipality.

“Link Africa has taken a strategic decision to consolidate operations and run its business from KwaZulu-Natal,” says Carthy, who is a director on its board.

“We had initially planned to roll out services in five major South African metros, but as a result of delays we are experiencing in securing permissions to deploy fibre in the sewers in Johannesburg and Tshwane, we have decided to refocus our energies.”

In future, Carthy says, Link Africa will roll out infrastructure and services mainly in Kwa-Zulu Natal, where it has permission to utilise sewer infrastructure. The company has deployed 400km of fibre in eThekwini to date.

Chief financial officer Terence Moodley has been appointed to run the company with immediate effect.  — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media

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