iBurst plans to offer broadband in rural areas in partnership with municipal councils.
CEO Thami Mtshali says the company, which he says has turned the corner after a disastrous billing problem that lost it many customers, has identified the Sisonke district in southern KwaZulu-Natal as the first place for rural expansion.
“I think we can find a business model to take broadband into rural municipalities. We’re determined to that,” Mtshali tells TechCentral. “We have a team dedicated to working on rural areas.”
The Sisonke district is poorly served by other telecommunications operators, and iBurst believes there is sufficient demand from businesses, schools, clinics and government departments in the area to justify an investment in communications infrastructure.
iBurst is also in talks with the Moses Kotane municipality in North-West about providing Internet connectivity in the area.
Mtshali says iBurst will use a variety of technologies and radio spectrum bands to provide services in outlying areas. It plans to offer a mix of wireless options, including Wi-Fi, satellite and microwave solutions at 400MHz, 1,8GHz and 2,5GHz. iBurst has access to all three frequency bands.
He emphasises, however, that rural broadband won’t be iBurst’s primary focus. Rather, Mtshali believes it will remain a niche offering, albeit one other operators have ignored until now.
“We think we can make it work, especially because others don’t want to go there,” he says.
Meanwhile, Mtshali says iBurst has turned the corner after several years of instability caused by, among other things, a poor billing system that infuriated some of its clients.
“It has been a bumpy ride,” he says. “We definitely made a lot of mistakes. The billing system was introduced prematurely. At the same time, we changed our product types and moved the call centre. That’s a recipe for disaster. We lost lots of customers for that reason.”
Still, iBurst has about 100 000 customers using its iBurst wireless and cellular broadband products. “We are not growing as fast as we should, but our corporate base is growing nicely through [affiliate] Broadlink.” — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral