Fibre to the home in SA is “inevitable” but in the interim long-term evolution (LTE) wireless broadband technology will meet growing bandwidth requirements of both consumers and companies.
This is the view of MTN Business GM for fixed-mobile convergence, Justin Colyn, who says LTE may be combined with fibre in future to stand in as a last-mile substitute for fixed networks.
Colyn says that MTN Business is partnering with fibre players to increase its access to fibre and deliver much faster broadband.
He says the company is working Dark Fibre Africa, Metrofibre Networx and “just about anyone who’s laying fibre”. It is also in talks with city metros about using fibre they’re deploying to make high-speed Internet access more pervasive.
MTN Business said on Tuesday it was expanding its Metro Ethernet footprint, offering business customers in areas that have fibre access bandwidth speeds ranging from 2Mbit/s up to 1Gbit/s.
“Convergence is an over-used term, but we’re getting to the point where it is becoming a reality,” Colyn says.
Though SA is has relatively well developed Internet from an economic and penetration perspective, he says many other parts of Africa are getting the chance to “leapfrog” the country because they are deploying the latest Internet solutions first. “Uganda is arguably better off than SA in terms of infrastructure.”
He says MTN Business continues to enjoy growing demand for fixed-line services and expects that to continue.
He adds that fibre to the home (FTTH) connections “will happen eventually”, particularly as there are nearly half a dozen companies already laying fibre and because FTTH is becoming a reality overseas and “SA piggybacks on international trends”.
Growth in demand for cloud computing, where applications and services are delivered across the Internet in a utility-like model, combined with the fact that consumers and business users are becoming more bandwidth hungry, means there’s a need for “a truly disruptive technology”.
Fibre isn’t the only “disruptive technology” Colyn has in mind. He says LTE is part of the solution and a potential alternative to fibre while next-generation fixed-line access networks are being built.
He says MTN, which is running a pilot LTE network in Gauteng, has found the technology is sufficient for most video-on-demand applications and suggests that in future operators may run fibre to key points with LTE as an alternative to fixed lines in the access network.
Building more fibre networks is crucial to SA’s communications future, whether it’s because it’s needed for LTE backhaul or FTTH, but he argues each operator shouldn’t be trenching every street. Rather, a consolidated industry approach to laying fibre is needed, Colyn believes.
Local-loop unbundling, where Telkom’s rivals are given access to its copper access network, won’t make a big difference in the long run because the “competitive advantage it provides only really lasts 12 months, then it’s a fairly level playing field again”. — Craig Wilson, TechCentral
- Subscribe to our free daily newsletter
- Follow us on Twitter or on Facebook
- Visit our sister website, SportsCentral (still in beta)