iBurst to team up with municipal councils to extend rural broadband

28 Jun 2011

According to TechCentral, South African WiMAX operator iBurst is set to extend its wireless broadband network to a selection of rural areas, with CEO Thami Mtshali indicating that the Sisonke district in southern KwaZulu-Natal is likely to be the first location to witness connectivity. The Sisonke district is said to be poorly served by South Africa’s other telecoms operators, and iBurst believes that there is sufficient demand from schools, clinics and government departments in the area to justify an investment in wireless broadband infrastructure. iBurst is also in talks with the Moses Kotane municipality in north-west about providing future connectivity in the area. Mtshali told TechCentral: ‘I think we can find a business model to take broadband into rural municipalities. We’re determined to do that. We have a team dedicated to working on rural areas. We think we can make it work, especially because others don’t want to go there’. Mtshali said that iBurst has access to frequency in the 400MHz, 1.8GHz and 2.5GHz spectrum bands, and plans to utilise a variety of technologies to provide services to outlying areas. However, he emphasises that rural broadband will not be iBurst’s primary focus going forward, merely a ‘niche offering’ that other operators have yet to embrace.

Regarding the operator’s stuttering progress, Mtshali commented: ‘It has been a bumpy ride. 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. We are not growing as fast as we should, but our corporate base is growing nicely through [affiliate] Broadlink’. The CEO indicated that iBurst currently has around 100,000 wireless broadband subscribers.

South Africa, Rain (Multisource/WBS)