Africa ramps up Fibre-To-The-Home

This month has been one for announcements of Fibre-To-The-Home roll-outs. What was once considered exceptional will soon become normal as bandwidth delivery ramps up in Africa’s key markets.

Standing around chatting at an AfricaCom party last year, I was amused to hear colleagues from Jamii Telecom telling me that they had just spoken to some South Africans who could not believe there was Fibre-To-The-Home in Kenya. This disbelief reflects the deep caution with which one of the continent’s largest markets approaches these kinds of developments.

All of this may change if the takeover of Neotel by Vodacom goes ahead. Part of its arguments for the takeover (see Mergers and acquisitions below) is that it will start to roll out Fibre-To-The-Home.

Not before time as South Africa is one of the markets with the largest and most clearly defined middle class on the continent, who will take to this kind of upgrade like ducks to water.

I’ve been in Rwanda this week and have spoken to Liquid Telecom who will also be rolling out Fibre-To-The-Home. You will hear more about their strategy in next week’s issue. So it is no longer just the big markets where this development is taking place and in time all African markets will have Fibre-To-The-Home as everything becomes data.

Last week Nigerian ISP ipNX, whose networks had previously been based on WiMAX, announced that it will be offering Fibre-To-The-Home (FTTH) in the three cities of Nigeria’s “golden triangle”: Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. With broadband penetration at below 5%, ipNX sees its FTTH offering as one way of closing the last mile gap.

The network roll-out started quietly in Q4, 2012 and is expected to pass 500,000 households in 2015 and 2 million in 2017.

Total value of the investment being made? According to the company, “this is currently confidential” so it may be that it will proceed bit by bit in order to see what the reaction to the service is ipNX’s Head of Strategic Marketing, Kazeem Shitu said services from the FTTH network will be launched under the brand name FoS (Fibre optic Services).

FoS is currently available in selected areas of Lagos Island, Victoria Island, Ikoyi and Lekki. The service will be commercially offered to an initial 50,000 households and businesses within these areas as well as customers in Ikeja, Apapa and Surulere from November 2013.

ipNX’s FoS service is a ‘quad play’ broadband FTTH service that will offer customers a combination of high speed internet, fixed telephony service, IP-Television and video surveillance all bundled over the fibre optic network platform.

The 4 mbps minimum service will cost N10,000 a month and it will go up to 12 mbps. for residential and Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs). Larger corporate customers can simply buy as much bandwidth as they want.

The company said at its pre-launch event that:” We envisage that should the International bandwidth pricing drop as we project, we would be offering 20 Mbps by the end of 2014 and 50Mbps by 2016”. With the arrival of the ACE cable international wholesale bandwidth prices will almost certainly go down.

As this is a pre-launch announcement, it is being somewhat coy about the content that will be on the IP-TV platform: ”We have a starting line-up which will be revealed at the launch but customers will have the options of live broadcasts and video-on-demand”.

The video surveillance service will be subscription-based and allow customers to view their cameras remotely in real-time. The service can be used with a variety of cameras and there will also be an option of video storage packages.

All of the Quad Play services will be available individually in unbundled form. It envisages using Wi-Fi in the home to distribute signal to different parts of the house. It says that there will be “other revolutionary services which we shall be announcing in the near future”.

The ipNX FTTH initiative not only aligns with the recently approved Nigeria’s National Broadband plan which targets FTTH deployments in major Nigerian cities but also exceeds the country’s policy target of providing 2.4Mbps bandwidth speed to Nigerian consumers by the end of 2013.

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Africa ramps up Fibre-To-The-Home