Vumatel is making significant progress with its fibre broadband trial in Alexandra, and will soon roll out the solution to other low-income communities around the country.
Vumatel and Remgro, Vuma’s biggest shareholder, have for years talked up the idea of deploying uncapped fibre internet into low-income communities like Alex at prices as low as R99/month.
Executives from Vumatel and its parent, CIVH (through Maziv), took journalists on a tour of Alex on Tuesday to showcase the deployment of fibre into the high-density township and how residents are using it.
The initiative, called Vuma Key, has already seen a significant uptake in paying customers in Alex, even though it’s still in testing phase. If the model works commercially – and it seems it will – then the company plans to roll it out to the rest of the country.
The serviceable market for Vuma Key installations, CEO Dietlof Mare told TechCentral, could be as high as 10 million homes, including informal dwellings.
Offering 20Mbit/s uncapped internet is a game-changer for communities that have had to rely on expensive and capped mobile data, said CIVH chairman Pieter Uys, who joined Tuesday’s tour of Alex.
“Alexandra residents didn’t have fixed-line internet before. They only had mobile internet, which can only take you so far,” Uys said. “If you don’t have a connection that can give you video like YouTube, you are not really part of the internet.”
Though Vuma Key offers basic uncapped internet access, some Alex residents have opted to pay more to get faster speeds, with some opting for the Vuma Reach product at R399/month for uncapped broadband. “That shows that we don’t fully understand exactly what the requirement is yet, and it’s why this trial is paying off.”
Residents TechCentral spoke to are using the fibre to watch streaming services such as Showmax and Netflix, while others are using it to work from home and to look for jobs online.
Fibre is brought into the township via a 10Gbit/s backhaul link from Vumatel sister company Dark Fibre Africa. From there, it’s deployed aerially along poles, with fibre running from the poles into individual dwellings. Each pole can support 32 links into dwellings, from where a further eight connections are possible.
Vuma Key offers a basic uncapped tier for R99/month, providing connectivity of 20Mbit/s and to which four devices can be connected. If there’s no network congestion, speeds of up to 100Mbit/s are possible.
The network equipment deployed into each dwelling can be powered by a small UPS (available separately), so residents can keep browsing the internet even during load shedding.
The trial will continue until the end of the year. Once the model has been developed fully, Vumatel plans to “roll it out at scale”. – © 2023 NewsCentral Media