South Africa’s fibre connectivity continues to expand as the country’s major network operators build out infrastructure in more locations – reaching underserved city suburbs and larger towns.
According to the State of the ICT Sector report, fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) and fibre-to-the-business (FTTB) subscriptions surged 5,000% between 2015 and 2019.
The report showed that there were 1.6 million fibre customers in the country by 2019, up from only 31,843 recorded in 2015.
This was even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, which resulted in a big rise in demand for fast and reliable connectivity as more people worked and studied from home.
While progress on the fibre rollout may seem slow for many South African homes desperate for affordable uncapped Internet, the fact is that more towns and suburbs are getting access to fibre every month.
However, South Africa’s biggest fibre network operator Telkom has in recent years slowed down the expansion of its Openserve fibre network and instead opted to focus on mobile offerings.
Since our previous comparison in November 2019, Telkom has only extended its vast 164,000-kilometre fibre network by an additional 1,900km, according to its latest annual financial statements.
That represents a growth of just over 1.15% on its total network size.
Big growth for others
In stark contrast to this, its prime fibre rival Vumatel has shown a significant increase in its fibre network capacity – growing from 8,000km to 18,000km.
Despite Vumatel having a smaller network, it surpassed Openserve in terms of homes connected in early 2019.
Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) and MTN also increased their networks by 1,000km and 2,000km, respectively.
A smaller player among the larger fibre operators, MetroFibre Networx, nearly doubled its network size since our previous report – increasing from 1,500km to 2,700km.
The table below shows the size of the biggest fibre networks in South Africa based on the kilometres of fibre cable they have trenched.
Where an FNO did not provide the latest up to date figures, we used the last available data as presented in its most recent annual financial statements.
|Fibre Networks in South Africa|
|Liquid Telecom SA||21,000km*|
*Same figures as in November 2019 as no updates provided or available in recent financial statements.
Several of these fibre network operators provide maps that show where their fibre networks run
Telkom – 165,900km
Telkom owns the largest fibre network in the country, owned and operated by its fibre wholesale division Openserve.
Openserve’s network passes 459,000 homes in South Africa.
While it has slowed down fibre rollout significantly in recent years, the company has claimed an improved fibre to the home (FTTH) connectivity rate from 43.6% to 53.8% between March 2020 and September 2020.
Liquid Telecom SA – 21,000km
Liquid Telecom South Africa, forms part of the leading pan-African telecoms group Liquid Telecom.
21,000km of its 70,000km fibre network is trenched in South Africa.
MTN – 23,000km
MTN’s network encompasses 23,000km of access and long-distance fibre cabling.
MTN is part of the national Long Distance (NLD) consortium that is rolling out thousands of kilometres of fibre in a network grid that will connect major cities across the country.
According to MTN executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan, MTN’s fibre-to-home subsidiary Supersonic has doubled its consumer fibre base in the past three years with over 71,000 homes connected.
“Our plan for the next few months is to focus on both Aerial Fibre solutions, as well as Fixed Wireless alternatives that offer true ‘Fibre’ like quality over a wireless medium, such as AirFibre,” O’Sullivan said.
Broadband Infraco – 14,863km
Broadband Infraco is a state-owned company that is intended to improve market efficiency in the long-distance connectivity segment.
Its network spans just under 15,000km and covers all nine of South Africa’s provinces, including most cities and major towns.
Dark Fibre Africa – 14,000km
Dark Fibre Africa currently has around 13,000km of fibre in the ground.
Alongside Vumatel, it is owned by Community Investment Ventures Holdings, a venture holding firm owned by a group of investors – Remgro, New GX Capital Holdings, Chlanich, Community Investment Holdings, and Consolidated Capital Investments.
MetroFibre Networx – 2,700km
MetroFibre Networx’s fibre-to-the-home infrastructure has been rolled out across Gauteng, Witbank, Klerksdorp, Durban, and Port Elizabeth.