Dark Fibre Africa chief executive Thinus Mulder says the group is working on a 5G strategy with its customers to take advantage of what is expects to become a trillion dollar industry.
Mulder was speaking to journalists at a lunch event at Melrose Arch. He said that, while a late entrant into the fibre-to-the-home space, that market has been much bigger than anticipated, with as many as 2.5 million homes set to be connected by 2025.
According to Ericsson, the business opportunity of leveraging 5G to digitalize industries is estimated to be over 1.2 trillion dollars by 2026, and DFA wants a piece of that pie.
DFA has rolled out in excess of 13,000km of fibre route which it manages and operates and leases out to wholesale customers on an open-access basis.
Mulder said that DFA will be ready to provide the infrastructure required for denser 5G networks and base stations.
DFA, which has an asset value of R9.7 billion, is owned by investment firm Community Investment Ventures Holdings (CIVH) which has just acquired a 34.9% stake of fibre operator Vumatel, while also agreeing to purchase the remaining 65.1%, subject to funding and regulatory approvals.
DFA acting chief strategy officer, Vino Govender said that both Vumatel and DFA would enable improved backhaul services for technologies including 5G.
“I think if you also had to look at 5G deployment and base stations starting to roll out in suburbs, there is opportunity on the back of the network to bring in the backhaul services for that.”
He said 5G is a big opportunity for growth for DFA, and it is actively working on 5G trials.
“On the wholesale-operator type model, one of the most exciting things for us is 5G. We have been approached to work on 5G trials with mobile operators which is great, because it allows us to not just test our network for 5G, but also have a deeper understanding of what the traffic profile is going to be when we fully deploy our network,” said Govender.
Muller, meanwhile, said that through its subsidiary, SA Digital Villages (SADV), it is targeting a push into the affordable housing market.
In 2016, DFA acquired a significant minority stake in SA Digital Villages, which is an Internet Service Provider specialising in the installation, operation and maintenance of last mile fibre optic networks.
Mulder said that the group has already connected 3,500 affordable houses in the R7,000 – R11,000 income market, which he added, is ‘much bigger than the leafy suburbs’. He said that the project is in conjunction with a large property developer, although he did not elaborate.