Nine months after Vodacom CEO Shameel Joosub hinted that the mobile operator was keen to build fibre-to-the-home broadband networks in South Africa, more details have emerged of its plans in this regard.
Executive head of access solutions at Vodacom, Janine Rebelo, has revealed in an interview with TechCentral that the company plans to roll out fibre access to selected business parks in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban in Vodacom’s financial year to March 2014.
From next year, assuming the deployments have met the company’s expectations, the plan is to accelerate the build to more business parks and also to include private homes in residential estates in the mix, Rebelo says.
Consumers will be offered speeds as high as 100Mbit/s, Rebelo says, and there are plans to offer video-on-demand and similar entertainment services down the line. In practice, most consumers will choose slower download speeds than the maximum on offer — connection options are likely to include a range of products from 2Mbit/s and up.
In terms of content services over broadband for residential users, Vodacom intends offering MultiChoice’s DStv channels over its fibre network for estates that ask for it, as well as video-on-demand services.
“We are at the stage now where we have identified the areas and will start rolling out,” Rebelo explains. “We have started with the enterprise market because that is the lower risk approach and it is easier for us to manage.”
According to Rebelo, Vodacom has engaged with several business parks for the first phase of the company’s fibre access plans. “During the course of this financial year, up to March, we have a fairly extensive roll-out plan,” she says. “I don’t mean we’re going to roll out to hundreds [of office parks], but we have five or six or seven we want to go into.
“After that, we will start rolling out on a larger scale once we are happy with the investment. In between that … we will expand into residential estates as well.”
Vodacom has begun work on a project to identify opportunities for providing fibre-based broadband in the residential market, she adds. “We will place our switches very carefully as we begin to serve business estates so that we can also serve residential estates from one central switch.”
For now, the company does not plan to offer fibre to standalone homes along residential streets. “It’s about finding the right gaps, and housing estates are largely underserved,” Rebelo says. “They are constructed on an open piece of land not necessarily served by mobile or fixed infrastructure. It’s about selecting the right target market in the right areas, not about rolling out with wild abandon. The cost of the infrastructure won’t support that.”
Rebelo says Vodacom is keen to get into the fibre access market because wireless solutions won’t meet the expected demand for high-speed data in the next five years. “We will only get so far with wireless and copper,” she says, adding that the company would like to extend 1Gbit/s fibre broadband to as many customers as feasible over time. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media