Get Us Fibre - How To Get Fibre To Your Neighbourhood Faster
Jacques du Rand 2020-11-04
If you're currently happy as Larry and already have fibre in your home, this article is probably not for you. This is geared at the people desperately trying to make fibre matters move faster to their neighbourhoods.
Gasp! No, not everyone is lucky enough to have it yet, and it sucks for those communities who really want it, but are so low down on the priority list they have no idea whether, or even when, they'll be blessed with fibre.
Fibre Coverage - It Is Not Everywhere
The cost of putting fibre optic (not copper) cables in the ground is a long and grueling process. It is littered with permits and government processes. So you can imagine that fibre is quite the capital intensive outlay ( expensive). To make up for the cash outlay, fibre networks look for areas that will give them the most back. One house here or there will not draw their attention to your cause (or neighbourhood). It's a numbers game. Which means you need to get fibre as a community and not as a single dwelling.
The Fibre Basics
At Fibre Tiger we get a lot of inquiries from people to "please come and install fibre" in their neighbourhood or place of residence. Sadly it's not that easy - as there are so many moving parts involved.
Fibre has two parts:
- The Fibre Network (Openserve, Vumatel, Frogfoot, Octotel etc): These are the people that actually own and install the fibre optic cables in the ground. These are the people you should engage with when you're wanting to get fibre in your neighborhood. Not the ISPs.
- Fibre ISPs (WebAfrica, Vox, Home-Connect, Telkom, Afrihost etc) These are the companies that sell you a data package on top of the fibre network that is installed in your area.
There are also a couple of additional points to take note of:
- Usually only one network operates per area. Getting the right network interested in your area might be tricky if you don't yet have fibre.
- The ISPs you can choose from once the network has laid the initial cables will be dependent on the network. You can choose your ISP, but you can't choose your fibre provider (i.e. network, in most cases). Not all ISPs are with every network.
- ISP prices will differ from network to network. Some networks charge a
higher base rate - possibly as the initial expense of laying the cables, or
maintaining those cables is higher, so in turn the ISP's monthly cost to you
will need to increase as well.
- Once all the connections are completed, you only need to deal with (and pay) the ISP. They organize the installation of the final- fibre-cable from the street into your home.
- The ISP will provide you with the necessary hardware (fibre ONT/CPE device and a wifi-router)
- It is important to differentiate that the "fibre installation" most ISPs refer to is the fibre installation from the street that connects your house to the big fibre pipe that was installed by a network. This is not to be confused with "installing fibre in a neighbourhood" which responsibility lies with the network.
You Don't Have Fibre Now What?
As we mentioned earlier, putting the network cabling down can be quite a costly exercise.
FNOs (Fibre Network Operators) like Vumatel, Openserve (Telkom), Frogfoot, etc install fibre for a community (neighbourhood/suburb) not per single house. They need to really be convinced they will make their money back.
Bringing Fibre To Your Community
So what, if anything, can you do to help speed up the process for your neighbourhood?
The best solution is to organize your immediate community and neighbours to start and join a fibre-interest-group. It can be as simple as a Facebook Group or WhatsApp Group Chat or even a website.
You need to clearly state your case and market your neighbourhood to the networks. Pique their interest by showing them your interest and numbers.
Is it worth all the work? Definitely yes!
Fibre Tiger is often asked to join some of these groups, and we've seen groups like these rally their community and eventually get fibre. It might not be overnight, but it sure is a lot sooner than they would've had it if they chose to stay silent.
Prime examples of this are: Tableview Fibre Group and Roodepoort Fibre Group who both managed to get fibre into their neighbourhood by starting these groups.
Starting a Facebook Fibre Group
Facebook groups have proven to be very successful because you can "market" the groups to people in your vicinity and location. Even if you have never spoken to your neighbours before you can set up a small Facebook marketing campaign to target users in your area.
Many new members to a neighbourhood, will usually start their fibre search with a local Facebook neighbourhood group search.
- Many of your neighbours are on Facebook already (If not directly, maybe their children are.)
- It can be marketed to a location.
- Good way to keep the community informed and up to date. (mass communication)
- Good way to educate the users on how fibre works (FNO vs ISPs)
- Can have multiple admins on the group to keep pushing momentum forward
- Not everyone is on Facebook
- It can sometimes turn into a marketing cesspool from fibre consultants or companies that keep marketing their fibre-promotions, but aren't' very helpful beyond that.
- The usual internet fights ensue ("handsak gevegte" or general "trolling") and group admins need to moderate the discussion - which can be time consuming.
Starting a WhatsApp Neighbours Group
If privacy is a concern a WhatsApp group is usually a good way to get more people on board. It is also how most "interest groups" start off only to later migrate to and better organize themselves into a Facebook group or website.
- Easy to communicate with everyone.
- Easy to moderate (People are generally a little more conservative on WhatsApp than Facebook. Plus admins can restrict communications to one-way only if really necessary.
- Better privacy
- Notifications won't go missing
- Admins have full control over who they let into the group - ie no spammy sales people.
- Hard to market to outsiders (people not in your WhatsApp list)
- Harder to manage and admin (as you will need to go door-to-door for neighbour phone numbers and need to explain the reason face-to-face. Any new members to the neighbourhood won't know it exists.
- Can't gather momentum as it is not public, fibre networks and ISPs can't be "tagged" in conversations.
Creating a Website
This is a great way to gain traction in addition to the other methods and especially if one of your neighbours is technically inclined and can put a website together at little, or no cost.
Having a dedicated website with a good, and obvious name like "RoyalAscotFibre.co.za (now defunct - we have fibre already) will make the task of finding the action group by new interested parties very easy.
Many people will start with a Google search like "Fibre near me" or "fibre roodepoort" and Google is very good at surfacing these websites as a top result.
- Easy to market
- Widest audience and scope
- Good to share information
- Easy to moderate
- Great way to showcase other supporting groups like the Facebook or Whatsapp group.
- Community members can at times feel less involved, not the same interaction level or discussion level as for example a Facebook group. This may cause a heavier load of responsibilities to drive the initiative from the website creator. This might cause momentum to fizzle out.
What If I live in a Complex Or Estate (MDU)?
This is actually good news and will make your process a little easier.
Fibre Networks (FNOs) love MDUs (Multiple Dwelling Unit - ie estates/complexes). It's like a bulk sale for them.
Your first action should be to confirm via the Body Corporate and HOA (Home Owners Association) that there really is no fibre in the complex or estate, or that someone is not already in the process of approaching networks. Some fibre availability maps do not always correctly cover these complexes.
Some estates sign exclusive agreements directly with ISPs (as opposed to Networks) to install and own the infrastructure, we definitely don't recommend you do that.
Work closely with your body corporate to get a critical mass of people that would like fibre and then approach one or two FNOs (networks) to come and do presentations. FrogFoot is usually very keen on MDUs.
It's all pretty much a moot point if you can't build momentum for the cause, or keep it and follow-through. It will require active involvement from yourself and a few people as eager as yourself to drive this project.
How Do I Get People to Join My Group ?
Facebook has definitely made the process a lot easier, and is the method we would recommend to get things moving faster. It is also public - which means if you do it right - you might potentially have multiple networks interested.
- Once you have your group set-up, invite the neighbours you do know to join.
- Post it to your own profile and get other friends to share it.
- Drop a note in your neighbour's postbox about the group.
- For expedited numbers, run a small Facebook ad, hyper-targeted to your location (neighbourhood) and immediate neighbours. It is really easy to do. Too easy in fact. Facebook will have a little button that reads "boost". Follow the instructions and off you go!
- Tag Fibre Tiger once you have a good solid number of people in your group (15+). We have gladly helped to advertise these groups for free on our website in the past and we also share your group on our own Facebook page. (See current list below)
Wondering if you have a fibre group for your neighbourhood already?
Here is a list of the big ones:
- Fibre To The Home - Roodepoort & Krugersdorp
- Richwood Fibre Initiative
- Mitchells Plain Fiber Users
- Burgundy Estate Fibre
- Table View Fibre
- Brackenfell Fibre Users
My Community / Group Is Big Enough - Now What ?
After you have gathered a sufficiently large community, you now need to approach a FNO (Nework) to come and do a presentation for your group. This is somebody like Vumatel, Openserve or Frogfoot.
As a community you now need to decide which FNO will have the privilege of your monthly subscription fee. Remember we are not talking about ISPs (Webafrica, Afrihost, Vox) we are talking about the Fibre network, and once you have a fibre network it's very hard to get a second one to come into the neighbourhood!
How Big is Big Enough ?
There are no hard and fast numbers we found, but it seems the average house-count needs to be around 25-35 households in close proximity to even start approaching the networks. The higher, the more probability you have of success, but also of network interest.
A good rule of thumb is that a minimum 30% of the larger community needs to show a ‘good' intent/interest in using the fibre.
What Not To Do
We've been advised by some of the active fibre action groups:
Don't go and register your "fibre interest" on a FNO's coverage map like say FNO-ABC. Or at the very least don't let that be the ONLY thing you do.
The reason is that if you promote "register your interest on FNO-ABC", you have now lost your bargaining power with the other FNOs (networks). Many people see that as the only step needed to get fibre to their community. I.e they only "register" their interest on some of the FNO's coverage maps without joining or creating a "Fibre Action Group".
It's much better to approach a few FNOs (networks) as a group once you have reached critical mass.
Things That May Count In Your Favour
Networks love if you can do most of the work for them. The more interest you bring them, the more likely they will be to put you on their list of neighbourhoods to consider.
There are also a few additional things that may count in your favour, but may require a bit of sleuthing on your part:
- The more densely populated the area, the cheaper it will be to install the network and therefore the better the return of investment for the network. If your neighbourhood is still up and coming, or has only a sparse distribution of houses, it might not tickle their fancy.
- If they have built a network nearby - it's cheaper and easier to extend the network compared to starting a new area in a more remote location.
- Distance from main exchanges is also a factor to consider. Most FNOs (networks) leverage existing infrastructure (that they have to pay for) in order to build in newer areas. They generally have to pay more the further away they are from the data centers in SA. It may be worthwhile trying to establish how far (or close) your neighbourhood is located from existing infrastructure.
Fibre will eventually reach most of South Africa, but if you'd prefer it sooner rather than wait till your neighbourhood makes it to a network's list, this might be a good way of getting fibre to your neighbourhood faster.
Fibre Tiger is a fibre internet comparison service and helps you find the best data package for the network in your neighbourhood.