Vumatel’s push into low-income communities through its Vuma Key initiative is “probably the most exciting thing” it’s doing in the fibre space.
That’s according to Junaid Munshi, who was recently appointed as chief commercial officer of Maziv, Vumatel’s parent company, in which Vodacom is in the process of acquiring a 30% stake (with an option to increase that to 40%).
In an interview with TechCentral on Wednesday, Munshi, who has worked in telecoms for more than two decades, said two pilot projects for Vuma Key – one in Kayamandi in Stellenbosch and the other in Alexandra in Johannesburg – are progressing well.
Although pricing for Vuma Key hasn’t yet been determined, shareholder Remgro – which is invested in Maziv through an entity called Community Investment Ventures Holdings (CIVH) – has said previously that it hopes to get the cost to consumers down to the R100/month level for uncapped broadband internet.
Although Vumatel has “proven the use case” and “it does work”, Munshi said Vuma Key is not yet ready for commercial launch as the company is still ironing out the go-to-market strategy. It is very likely to work, for example, with the same informal traders that supply airtime and Sim cards to township communities.
Munshi admitted that it is difficult to perfect the model for low-cost fixed-line fibre but insisted it can be done. “We are now fine-tuning how to take it to market and what the proposition will look like,” he said.
Vuma Key ‘not CSI’
He emphasised that the deployment of low-cost fibre in low-income communities is “not a CSI initiative” and is “not charity” by Vumatel, but rather a for-profit venture.
Vuma Key is “probably the most exciting thing we are doing in this space”, he said. “It will create real value in these communities… We are doing whatever we can [to connect them].”
According to Munshi, deployments will typically involve aerial fibre, with an ONT, or optical network terminal, deployed to each dwelling, with Wi-Fi available on tap.
Vumatel will also work “very closely” with communities during the fibre deployment phase, and they will be invited to participate throughout the “value chain”, he said. The entire Vuma Key initiative will be prepaid, a concept already well understood in the target communities. – © 2023 NewsCentral Media