Openserve bets on fibre-on-demand strategy for growth

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 14 Sept 2021
Phila Dube, chief commercial officer at Openserve.
Phila Dube, chief commercial officer at Openserve.

Telkom’s Openserve wholesale unit is pinning its hopes on a new fibre-on-demand service, as part of its strategy to expand its fibre footprint across SA’s under-served and marginalised areas.

The fibre network operator bills itself as SA’s largest wholesale telecommunications infrastructure provider.

It offers wholesale products and services to other licensed telecoms service providers through an open access network, which covers more than 2.4 million households locally with fibre, either directly to the home (FTTH) or to the cabinet (FTTC).

The company has been beset by operational issues over the past year, including vandalism and theft of infrastructure.

Despite this, it has seen double-digit growth across its carrier and broadband market segments since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, pushed by significant demand for internet connectivity.

However, the company’s traditional market segment – enterprise − continues to be on a decline, as a result of local businesses downsizing or introducing remote-working policies for employees.

Phila Dube, chief commercial officer at Openserve, told ITWeb that while the enterprise segment has seen a decrease in consumption, the company has witnessed an increase in demand across its next-generation services, which are powered by fibre.

As more companies and people adopt hybrid forms of work, the home has become the new hub of communication, fuelling tremendous growth across fixed fibre and backhaul requirements for mobile operators.

As such, the declining consumption trend seen across Openserve’s enterprise segment was offset by the booming demand for data last year, with increased traffic of over 28% across its fixed-line network.

As part of its drive to connect South African businesses and homes to high-speed broadband, Dube notes Openserve has introduced its fibre-on-demand service.

The service strives to upgrade all points-of-presence, including the company’s current FTTC footprint, to be able to drive its last mile with fibre connectivity – thereby servicing demand from its existing, past and future customers.

“Openserve’s fibre-on-demand strategy allows us to install the service on-demand and achieve our ambition of connecting the country with a high-speed fibre broadband network – an important step towards migrating our existing xDSL customer base to next-generation connectivity solutions, while ensuring customer experience is maintained,” notes Dube.

“This deployment method allows us to attract new and existing customers back on our network, especially those who may have left due to a previous poor experience, or who may not have had proper connectivity in their area.”

While FTTH is based on pre-provisioning of fibre infrastructure past the premises before customers can be connected to the network, the fibre-on-demand service is based on requests for connection from customers who do not yet have their premises passed with FTTH, but are within reach of the fibre nodes, which have been upgraded to be GPON (gigabit passive optical network)-enabled – providing a multi-point access network to enable one single feeding fibre to serve multiple homes and small businesses, added Dube.

As part of its strategy to connect more South Africans to its network, Openserve has continued to revamp its service and fulfilment model, by launching multiple digital platforms, such as the Openserve Connect App that allows customers to engage, trouble-shoot connectivity issues and utilise self-service features while they are on the Openserve network.

While Openserve is moving away from legacy infrastructure like copper, Dube points out that in some areas, copper is the only available connectivity infrastructure.

While these areas are awaiting upgrade of their Openserve infrastructure, if the quality of the copper is good, they could still be connected to broadband at speeds of up to 40mbps on the Openserve Pure connect service, which uses some of its copper-based legacy infrastructure.

Looking to the future, the company continues to expand its partnerships with internet service providers (ISPs) in its fibre push, targeting the secondary towns, townships and high-density areas that were previously under-served, or which have traditionally never had fibre or broadband services, adds Dube.

“In the last five or six months, we’ve added more footprint than we’ve done in any one given year, since we started the fibre rollout. Some of the under-serviced areas we’ve deployed fibre in include Chatsworth, Soweto and the Eersterust project, which is almost complete.

“We are seeing great demand in these areas and we are not just focusing on rolling out the service, but we are also coming up with exciting value propositions for specific markets, in partnership with our ISP network, which is important from a commercial perspective.”