Banking group FNB is in the process of expanding its fibre network to serve as a back-haul for telecoms services, industry sources have said.
It is unclear at this stage how the fibre network will serve the bank, or what services it might offer, but two independent sources claim that it is part of the bank’s telecoms services play.
FNB’s banking app already has telephonic capabilities built into it, allowing users to call FNB Call Centres for free.
Banking customers who are signed up to the bank’s FNB Connect services can also use the app to make free calls and send free messages to other app users, as well as paid-for services off-net.
These services are essentially VoIP services running off of the bank’s extensive branch-to-branch fibre back-haul, so expanding the network makes sense, one of the sources said.
Rumours have been swirling around since 2013 that FNB has its sights set on becoming a player in the South African telco space in some capacity.
The plans have been described as an “open secret” in the industry.
FNB has the necessary licences to be a telecommunications provider, and already provides voice and data services. The bank is also one of the largest bulk SMS users and airtime distributors.
The bank has sold over 200,000 smart devices since launching into the space in 2011, adding mobile accessories to its sales line in 2013.
Talk of FNB’s mobile network ambitions first emerged in June 2013, when two independent sources informed MyBroadband that FNB and Cell C were in discussions about an MVNO agreement.
FNB’s head of corporate communications Virginia Magapatona said at the time that discussions were underway with operators, but didn’t specify whether the talks were about an MVNO.
FNB was asked for comment on its fibre infrastructure, but the bank declined to comment, saying it “refrains from commenting on market speculation”.
“FNB will continue to enhance its services where it benefits our customers and will only be in a position to formally announce new services once launched,” FNB CIO, Mohammed Hassem told BusinessTech.