South Africa round-up: FTTH competition heats up in Parkhurst; MTN street light antenna project on hold; no Wi-Fi on trains ‘anytime soon’

31 Oct 2014

Following the announcement earlier this week that South African start-up Vumatel has lit its fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) in the upscale Johannesburg suburb of Parkhurst, rival broadband operator Telkom South Africa has revealed that it has started deploying its own fibre-optic infrastructure in the area, BusinessTech reports. However, Vumatel CEO Niel Schoeman was critical of the move, saying that the duplication of infrastructure for FTTH networks makes no sense, especially in a market like South Africa where homes are relatively far apart: ‘In South Africa, there are long distances between customers. If you really want to make the business case work, you have to share infrastructure. If another player comes into Parkhurst, they will double expenditure and halve the market, making it unfeasible.’ Meanwhile, Ryan Hawthorne, technical adviser at the Parkhurst Residents and Business Owners Association (Praboa), has welcomed the move by stating: ‘I don’t actually like the term duplicating, it’s competition and it’s exactly what we need and what we want.’ As reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate last month, Telkom is planning to deploy FTTH to 25,000 homes by 31 March 2015. Under its deployment schedule, Telkom will introduce the FTTH services to 23 suburbs in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town, with the main focus being on Johannesburg’s northern suburbs, namely: Houghton Estate, Bryanston, Sandhurst, Westcliff, Rosebank, Craighall, Craighall Park, Illovo, Parktown North, Hyde Park and Parkhurst.

MTN South Africa says that its plan to replace electricity supply agency City Power’s streetlight infrastructure with lampposts that double as cellular base transceiver stations (BTS) is on ‘indefinite hold’, following an outcry from local residents, TechCentral writes. In August 2014 Eben Albertyn, chief technology officer at MTN SA, revealed that the cellco had already deployed two towers in the suburb of Bryanston, with more than 100 BTS to follow in Bryanston, Sandton, Woodmead, Northcliff, Westcliff, Kyalami and Fairland before Christmas. However, Bryanston residents claimed that the project raises a number of concerns, citing environmental legislation and bylaws relating to tower mast health and safety.

South Africa’s Gautrain, the operator of the railway system which links Johannesburg, Pretoria, Ekhuruleni and Tambo International Airport, has backtracked on previous announcements that it would introduce Wi-Fi connectivity on its trains before the end of the year. BusinessTech cited Ingrid Jensen, a spokesperson for the railway operator, as saying: ‘Wi-Fi will not be available on the Gautrain system anytime soon’. However, a plan to provide mobile signals at underground stations is still in the pipeline, with an unnamed service provider already appointed. According to Jensen the deployment is already underway, although she provided no time frame for the rollout.

South Africa, MTN South Africa, Telkom South Africa, Vumatel