Broadband

HeroTel buys another North West WISP

Truecom MD and founder Eldred Ekermans.
Truecom MD and founder Eldred Ekermans.

HeroTel is strengthening its coverage in the North West province through yet another acquisition, this time buying 100% of True Communications (Truecom), based in Ventersdorp.

Truecom started out as a wireless Internet service provider (WISP) but pivoted to deploying its own fibre networks in 2016. To date, Truecom has deployed over 240km of aerial fibre across Ventersdorp and Lichtenburg, and plans are in place to expand this fibre footprint to Zeerust, Vryburg and Mafikeng within the next year.

"Truecom brings a number of new opportunities to our WISPs," HeroTel group chairman Alan Knott-Craig Jnr told ITWeb exclusively.

"They have successfully deployed a mix of fibre and high-speed wireless, at a price point that we have not seen before. This is a winning formula and a blueprint for what is possible in our smaller towns and rural communities across South Africa. Who would have thought that all of Lichtenburg would have access to fibre before many of the larger cities in this country?" Knott-Craig comments.

"HeroTel is fully aligned with our fibre and wireless strategy, and will provide us with the scale, systems and capital to expand faster than we could have done on our own," says Truecom MD and founder Eldred Ekermans.

Truecom was established in 2009 by Ekermans and today the group has six points-of-presence in Ventersdorp, Lichtenburg, Zeerust, Warrenton, Mafikeng and Vryburg through which the company provides Internet, VOIP and hosting services, to more than 30 towns across the province.

Truecom is the 27th acquisition the HeroTel group has completed, and in line with its strategy to date, there are no planned changes in management or staff at the company.

Closing the gaps

"We already own Safricom and Xpress Networks, in the North West province, and we are excited to build on the existing good relationship between these three companies," HeroTel CEO Corne de Villiers told ITWeb.

"It makes sense for them to share strategic infrastructure, like high sites and backhaul, to create redundancy and improved coverage for our clients across the province. In fact, we will not only actively promote co-operation between these businesses, but with the other WISPs in the area too."

"The North West is a glimpse of the future of the WISP industry, where fibre is deployed in the densely populated zones, while high-speed wireless fills the gaps between the towns. This is how next-generation rural networks will be built," De Villiers adds.

He says the acquisition is primarily a geographic coverage move to fill the gaps in HeroTel's national coverage ambitions but is also in line with the group's strategic objective to build its own fibre networks in specific areas, to complement its wireless coverage.

"Truecom builds its own fibre within the towns and builds wireless networks between the towns, in the rural areas. We see this as a blueprint for our existing WISPs to follow. Where the densities allow for it, build fibre; where they don't, build wireless," notes De Villiers.

He says scale in the area will allow the group to create a regional presence.

"We will in time appoint a regional head who will run a regional team, so that we can execute quickly without creating bottlenecks further up the chain. The three businesses will also look at their physical networks, including high sites and backhaul, to determine where they can co-locate and share infrastructure to increase capacity while decreasing duplicated costs, etc. The brands and customer bases will remain separate."

The HeroTel Alliance now has coverage via its WISPs in the North West, Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and surrounds, making it SA's largest wireless Internet service provider.

Management told ITWeb it will make a number of announcements on further acquisitions over the next few weeks.

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