Fibertime Group, the pay-as-you-go fibre provider that has connected 6 500 households in Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, plans to bring fibre internet to more township communities next year.
This was revealed by James Devine, co-founder and CTO of Fibertime, during a tour of Kayamandi, where the company began connecting households to fibre internet.
The tour, organised by Fibertime and its partner Nokia, provided a glimpse of how households in that community are connecting to “super-fast, affordable and uncapped pay-as-you-go internet”.
Fibertime plans to expand to Mfuleni and Kraaifontein in the Western Cape, KwaNobuhle in Kariega (formerly Uitenhage) and Rustenburg in the North West province, said Devine during the tour.
The group has set a target of 150 000 connected homes by March 2025.
Mfuleni is a relatively new township about 32km from central Cape Town, while Kraaifontein is on the north-eastern outskirts of the City of Cape Town.
“Next, we’re going to Mfuleni – we’ve thrown the slabs, got the concrete down already for the point-of-presence. We’ll start that in January; the bandwidth has already been ordered. Then there is Kraaifontein, as well as KwaNobuhle in the Eastern Cape. We’ll be going to Rustenburg next year, as well.”
According to Devine, Fibertime has been connecting Kayamandi households to fibre internet at a rate of 100-200 homes a day.
The company brings connectivity to the main dwelling (household), which then provides the opportunity to connect backyard dwellings, which include anything from one to three tin houses in one structure, he explained. “If you look around Kayamandi now, most of the [tin houses] have fibre in it.”
South Africa’s mobile connections have surpassed 100%, with GSMA Intelligence data showing mobile connections were equivalent to 187.4% of the total population in January 2023.
However, statistics show that approximately 80% of homes in SA remain unserved by fast and affordable broadband internet. The 2023 ICASA State of the ICT Sector Report reveals that only about 10% of the population has access to internet connectivity through fibre or fixed wireless access.
Given this, there has been impetus from fibre network providers to ensure universal access for all.
Fibertime says it offers fast, uncapped and time-based open-access fibre internet to townships, while also providing a gateway to initiate micro-payments for accessing the internet.
The group initially launched its Kayamandi Fibre Project fibre-to-the-home pilot last year in Kayamandi Township. It initially connected over 1 000 homes, providing them with unlimited data, but on a time-based and pay-as-you-go model, while VulaCoin provides digital wallets to initiate micropayments.
The project, the brainchild of Alan Knott-Craig Jr, is a collaborative effort run in partnership with Nokia, Liquid Intelligent Technologies and other players.
Nokia provides fibre access nodes for the fibre exchange and fibre modems to create a WiFi network across the entire township. Fibertime then connects the township communities to the fibre internet.
The process does not involve trenching, but provides Kayamandi households with free installation and router, and vouchers available in increments of R5 for 24 hours of 100Mbps uncapped internet.
Devine pointed out that municipalities have invested in providing power to the dwellings, so Fibertime invested in the fibre.
“On the wall of a home, you’ll see the Nokia router, as well as a battery bank behind it. When the power goes off, the internet just carries on – you get about four-and-a-half hours of run time on those batteries, depending on the usage.”
He explained: “The reason we started with Kayamandi is very simple − all of our businesses have been in Kayamandi since the beginning and we thought ‘why start somewhere else; first, fix your own house’. We started with ourselves and if we can’t get it right where we’re 15 minutes away from Kayamandi and have direct feedback – how are we going to get it right halfway around the country?
“The Western Cape Government (WCG) has done a lot for connectivity. They’ve rolled out internet through the WCG [broadband project], and all the schools are connected and linked with Liquid.
“However, community WiFi remains limited – available at a school or at a clinic. You’ll often notice people standing on the corner with their phones trying to use the free WiFi. When it works, it’s good, but when it doesn’t, it’s not. This is the traditional way, that it’s good enough because it’s free connectivity.
“We thought good enough is not enough, if I get to use it in my house properly. Everybody would like to usethe internet in their home; they don’t want to use it standing in a streetcorner in the sun.”