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Link Africa ups market share after fibre deals

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Fibre-optic infrastructure company Link Africa says it has increased its market share in the fibre-to-the-tower (FTTT) and fibre-to-the-business (FTTB) segments since selling off part of its fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) business to MetroFibre.

In April 2021, open access fibre network provider MetroFibre acquired the FTTH network and infrastructure of Link Africa in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), as part of Link Africa’s strategy to focus on growing the FTTT and FTTB verticals.

In an e-mail interview with ITWeb, Link Africa chief sales and marketing officer Mark O'Donoghue noted since then, the company has strengthened it partnerships with internet service providers (ISPs) and mobile network operators (MNOs) to accelerate its network across the country.

“We’ve increased our original coverage from Western Cape, Gauteng and KZN to every province in the country. We have expanded our coverage in line with some of South Africa’s largest retailers – allowing us to deliver fibre into the shopping centres and malls where they are present.

“This then allows us to spur off from these ‘nodes’ into other businesses – providing high-speed backhaul services to a multitude of areas that previously relied on much slower copper-based services,” explained O'Donoghue.

Link Africa builds and operates fibre-optic networks using a patented infrastructure deployment method on various modes of infrastructure. Numerous MNOs use Link Africa's FTTT infrastructure to connect a large number of their towers, in efforts to double bandwidth to existing and new customers on their networks.

In 2019, ISP Internet Solutions sold its fibre assets to Link Africa for an undisclosed amount. The transaction sought to extend Link Africa’s fibre network reach to 8 500km, making it one of SA’s biggest fibre network providers, alongside the likes of Openserve, Dark Fibre Africa and Liquid Telecoms, according to the company.

Since the acquisition, Link Africa has expanded its reach across SA and significantly increased its revenue streams.

The company is also working with an MNO in support of its 5G strategy, and has cemented contracts with large landlords to further the reach and reduce the price of communications in their portfolios, stated O'Donoghue.

“We have really benefitted from the acquisition in the commercial and retail sectors. We have significantly increased our revenue and profitability as an organisation and this has allowed us to expand our network, as well as invest in higher-capacity network equipment. We are currently in the process of upgrading our core switching infrastructure to 100Gbps.”

To adequately cater for the demand for its service, Link Africa has expanded its sales teams in Gauteng and KZN, as well as its technical resources and skills.

O'Donoghue is of the view that, while major cities are fairly well covered by the large fibre network operators, SA’s remote areas are still heavily under-served from a fibre perspective.

As a result, Link Africa’s growth focus is to extend its deployment routes into several previously underserved areas through new partnerships.

“Unfortunately, the outer reaches of these cities which accommodate the majority of our population are not well coveredfrom a fibre perspective. The challenge of peri-urban and rural rollout is the cost of physically protecting the network. We spend millions annually on private security firms for them to simply prevent destruction of the networks.”

The vandalism, he added, is often due to network cables being mistaken for copper.

“Our teams are often attacked or shot at when trying to lay or fix fibre (sometimes by the community mistaking them for copper thieves) – something fairly unique to South Africa.”

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