Dark Fiber Africa talks about 5G opportunities

Thinus Mulder, CEO of DFA.

The fiber densification needed for 5G is great news for infrastructure players like Dark Fibre Africa (DFA), which are already preparing and testing for the business boom 5G is likely to bring.

“They say that when the 5G arrives, your fiber densification will increase by a factor of 5 to 10;  therefore, for each base station you see today, there will be 8 to 10 base stations. This will require fiber, so we Will dig on the street for a while,” DFA CEO Thinus Mulder told ITWeb in an interview.

“We have built a return trip for the 5G company that is currently being launched, so this is great for us. Mobile operators, they have done a lot of homework, but it seems they are waiting for the standard to be completed by the end of the year. From 2024/2025 we From a point of view, we only focus on the main work. Of course, people like Comsol or Rain will now launch some, but I think mobile operators will start later,” he said.

5G represents the next development in wireless networks, with potential speeds hundreds of times faster than consumer 4G networks, and latency is very low. It is also expected to greatly improve the performance of wireless broadband services.

Data network operator Rain announced in February that it has launched its first 5G commercial network in South Australia and plans to launch commercial services in mid-2019.

Comsol Networks also plans to conduct commercial 5G trials this year, dedicated to commercial deployments nationwide in 2020. The team piloted an on-site 5G trial network on Vilakazi Street in Soweto in May 2018, and DFA conducted a return trip for a successful three-month project.

While SA’s top mobile operators are testing their 5G capabilities, none of them have a serious roadmap or release deadline.

“For [Rain and Comsol], this is different because it is new revenue, so if they spend capital expenditures, this is their new income, but for ordinary mobile operators, if they can’t Instead of spending more money to retain income, it will become harder. Just like you have copper wire and you have to replace it with fiber optics, it is expensive and you don’t get extra income, you just need to expand you Existing, so this is a challenge,” Mulder explained.

Lack of spectrum is still a problem for 5G deployments. While most SA telecommunications companies must wait until 2020 to allow the government to allocate 5G spectrum, players like Comsol and Rain already have spectrums for the 28GHz and 3.6GHz spectrum, which gives them a head start.

The goal of the first batch of local 5G adopters is to use 5G’s “fiber-like” speed fixed wireless Internet service, which some belief may be a competition for Internet service providers (ISPs) that provide fiber connectivity.

“If I talk to our technicians, they don’t think there’s any competition for fiber, because the physical properties of the spectrum, it can only go so far. When these new players start rolling out their networks, it’s great at first because it doesn’t Controversy. Because if you are the only mobile user, then you have a good signal, but if it has 20,000 users on it then it becomes a problem,” Mulder said.

“That’s why mobile operators want the fiber to be as close as possible to the base station. So the only mobile part of your phone or your text is the one from there to the other side. The rest is fiber.”

Mulder believes that 5G will complement fiber. “It may give you a deeper range, but you still need fiber to the last tower. If you really want to have rich data at home, if you want to watch 4K TV or use enhanced or virtual reality or games, you need fiber Because it is more stable. I think it is definitely complementary, but I don’t think it will compete.

“Our focus is on street furniture, making it closer to the tower and making the community more acceptable. So we did a few pilots, using lampposts as 5G sites, underground manholes and a variety of things. We are now working with Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei and other equipment suppliers to test, we will see which is effective, what is invalid, and then we will start planning to launch, but I think we have two to three years away from now,” he explained.

Connect Zim

In March, DFA  announced the opening of an office in Harare, Zimbabwe, marking its first expansion in Africa outside of South Africa.

“We have always regarded Africa as an area we want to enter. In the past, we made a lot of demands. We have seen a few opportunities, but at that time there was always more opportunity in South Africa. Where capital is following the best returns, He has achieved better returns in South Africa,” he explained.

“Now we are doing a proof of concept in Zimbabwe to see if it works, what is the impact on the country, and whether we will get support from the players. If it works, then we will expand.

“Our idea is like we started in South Africa; we built a fiber-optic line in Harare, focused on big data centers, and connected some base stations and some large companies. From there, we will see what the requirements are.”

He said that there may be more expansion in Africa in the future, and DFA “is looking for other countries, but we have not made an investment decision.”

“We may first focus on the capital cities of southern Africa;  for example, Maputo may be an opportunity. There are actually some opportunities, but I can’t say which happens first.”

Home-grown

However, SA remains a key focus for the group, and Mulder said the business is performing steadily.

“In terms of fiber to business, we still see huge growth opportunities in the next two or three years. The commercial sector lacks fiber coverage;  in terms of percentage, I think we may only have 15% to 20%.

“So there are still plenty of opportunities to grow, and if cloud computing is going to be a thing of the future, and everyone says, then you need a strong fiber backbone to make sure you can connect. We might invest about Rs 100 crore next year. I also foresee another two or three years of good spending. in the fiber to the home side, but at the moment we are groping in the surface, “he added.

DFA began developing its fiber-optic network in South Africa in 2007 and has deployed more than 13,000 km of pipeline infrastructure in major cities, secondary cities and small towns in South Africa. DFA is owned by investment company Community Investment Ventures Holdings (CIVH) and its largest investors are Remgro and New GX Capital.

In 2018, CIVH also purchased 34.9% of Vumatel in an undisclosed amount and signed an agreement to acquire the remaining 65.1%. In April 2019, the competition court finally lit the merger.

“The scale is critical in this business, Vumatel is the largest fiber-to-the-home player, we are the largest fiber-to-business player, so the merger makes sense,” Mulder told ITWeb about the deal.

“There is no real overlap in footprints because they focus on the suburbs, we are focusing on the CBD, for example;  but if you integrate the network into a network, there will be synergies.”

Mulder said DFA plans to continue to maintain pure infrastructure and does not want to become an ISP in the future.

“If we do this, we lose the reason for existence. This is open access. If we become an ISP, we will compete with our customers. This is not an intention. We will look at if we can consolidate the infrastructure, not Running 15 highways between the same city, then we would rather have a highway. This will always be our purpose,” he concluded.

Original Article Source from https://www.itweb.co.za/content/O2rQGMApj1g7d1ea/oJKjlyr7wO7k6amV

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