Fibre-provider laments field-worker safety concerns in SA

A worker arranges fibre-optic cables. File image.

A worker arranges fibre-optic cables. File image.

Published Feb 9, 2024


Keeping both internal employees and employees of partner organisations safe while working out in the field was becoming increasingly difficult in South Africa, according to MAZIV Group CEO Dietlof Mare.

MAZIV, the parent company of the two biggest FTTH, FTTS and FTTB companies in South Africa(DFA and Vumatel) told the Business Report in an interview that for this reason, the company was reviewing several initiatives to drive safety.

The Group CEO said that they have observed increasing pressure on infrastructure, both fibre-and power-related. “This has created a very challenging environment in which we have to still keep our networks up to support our fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) networks. The secondary impact of copper cable theft has also increased significantly with the increased stages of load shedding. We are experiencing more frequent damage-related failures on municipal infrastructure (burst water pipes, electrical cable failures etc.), which have also impacted our operational costs,” Mare said.

Amongst its recent achievements, the company said their biggest feat was growing its reach market to exceed one million homes in less than 3,5 years after starting the pilot on its pre-paid environment in Mitchells Plain, in the Western Cape province. The company said it now covered most of the large townships within the major metros and its overall network now exceeded two million homes.

Mare said in the new year, they were anticipating further changes in effective pricing per Mbps in the market. “Additionally, more prepaid services and flexible payment options are becoming available, reflecting a shift in the pricing and frequency of purchase landscape. Fibre Network Owners (FNOs) are all under pressure to ensure their investments benefit a larger demographic,” Mare said.

He said the impact of copper cable theft had also increased significantly with the increased stages of load shedding, which has also impacted MAZIV's operational costs. “Being in South Africa, keeping both internal employees and employees of our partners safe while working out in the field is becoming increasingly difficult, and we are reviewing several initiatives to drive safety.”

The company said it was currently in the process of implementing a new CRM system, Salesforce, to enhance customer satisfaction and facilitate improved automation and visibility to Internet Service Providers (ISPs) on its network. This initiative aimed to empower ISPs to serve their customer base more effectively,MAZIV said.

Mare said furthermore, they were committed to ongoing investments in specific regions, ensuring that their network could seamlessly support both current and future FTTH requirements. “This involves upgrading physical fibre infrastructure, optimising nodes supporting the network, and enhancing overall capacity and resilience.”

He said that in addition to these regional investments, they have extended their commitment to staying at the forefront of evolving technologies. “Our focus includes expanding capacity and incorporating various layers of resilience across our network where possible. Vumatel is also actively investing in Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) capabilities, reinforcing our commitment to ensuring service continuity under various disaster recovery events.”

The business said it continued rollout into lower income areas around the metro areas. “Due to economic conditions in the past year, we have also done a more in-depth review of our regions to ensure we can find products to unlock more value within underserviced areas.”

It added that its focus remained on the commercialisation of its products within dense lower-income areas, such as Alexandra, Johannesburg and Kayamandi, Stellenbosch. “The overarching objective is to provide a quality internet service in these communities, offering an experience comparable to that of residents in the ‘leafy’ suburbs. Through this effort, we aim to connect as many residents as possible within South Africa to quality, uncapped broadband connectivity,” Mare said.

According to an article published by Ora Capital Limited (Ora Capital), a company registered with SARS as a Venture Capital Company in terms of Section 12J of the Income Tax Act (Section 12J), It was estimated that less than 18% of South Africans currently had access to fibre at the beginning of last year. It said the Fibre industry was expected to invest R3 billion per annum over the next three years to meet the growing need as more South Africans worked or attended school remotely. It added tgat key industry stakeholders required capital to develop the Fibre Network.

“The South African Fibre outlay is expected to be R2.9 billion per annum for the next three years, with Metrofibre and Vumatel both expecting to invest R1 billion per annum, based on their current expansion plans,” according to Ora Capital.