An overview of fibre in Zimbabwe: What can we expect in 2015?

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Let’s take a second to look at what the Zimbabwean broadband internet landscape was like around 2009 and 2010. We didn’t have as many options as we have now for internet access, largely because of the limited infrastructure developments.

Home internet packages hadn’t been snapped up by a large part of the population that was still recovering from a harrowing effects of a casino economy and we were only starting to get a taste of the multi-currency system that would make services like the internet and the devices for it a reality.

Even the appetite for internet services wasn’t as high (Facebook, WhatsApp and Opera Mini weren’t dominate forces) and a debate on ADSL, Wimax and fibre connections would have been less engaging.

Turn the page to 2015 and the broadband landscape in Zimbabwe has changed considerably.  Thanks to the mobile networks’ broadband connectivity (where the majority accesses the internet) and also the increase in the uptake of home internet services that are slowly  becoming cheaper.

In the past year a lot of advances were made in the areas of infrastructure. Chief of these developments was the rollout of fibre in Zimbabwe. It’s always been around through different ISPs , but having it literally show up on people’s driveways has  brought the reality of fibre in ZImbabwe home.

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Most of this work on Fibre to the Home has been focused on Harare alone, with operators pledging to extend this infrastructure and service rollout other parts of the country.

Liquid is in the lead, but there are others

A lot of the infrastructure was driven by cross continent player Liquid Telecoms, which has continued to extend its presence in East and Southern Africa, together with an aggressive fibre to the home (FTTH) drive on the local front.

This network provided the centre-piece for the new packages from ZOL, the Internet Service Provider that is now part of the Liquid Group. In Harare, the most visible work around fibre rollout in residential areas carried the Liquid badge, and this came with an introduction of the ZOL Fibroniks package last year.

It hasn’t been just Liquid alone though. Operators like Telco have also been laying their own fibre network in Harare’s residential areas.

There are also active fibre links from IAPs such as Dandemutande, Powertel and TelOne that extend through cities and towns like Mutare, Plumtree, Bulawayo, Beitbridge, Masvingo and Kwekwe all which contribute to broadband delivery.

We have ISPs like Yo Africa also offering competitively priced Fibre home packages like a $155 (5Mbps) unlimited offering, (subject to the fibre link being close to your house) and competition from other fibre to the home providers like iWay Africa, Aquiva, Telco and Zarnet.

So why the excitement around Fibre in Zimbabwe now?

All this talk about fibre is coming from what it can do as a means of delivering faster and more stable internet. It goes without saying that more work can be done with such a connection which ties in perfectly with changing internet consumption habits.

Certain services with huge data demands which include live streaming, gaming and Video on Demand (VOD) become accessible at the best quality available in the market. Within the reality of such services there is the opportunity for content creation and service delivery through fibre.

These are just some of the areas that we expect to blossom in the year 2015. There is also the continued Fibre to the Home drive which is now being carried out in high, medium and low density areas in Harare at least. The anticipation is a similar rollout for other cities and towns.

Even though some operators are now exploring the new video opportunities it remains to be seen whether a Zimbabwean focused VOD service totally dependent on fibre will take over the market.  What is exciting is that regarding infrastructure, the steps have been taken to make it possible though.

Is Multichoice and DStv under threat?

There is a lot to suggest that fibre is the one thing that will slow down MultiChoice as the leading distributor of video and entertainment content. This lock on digital distribution is under threat from this new distribution channel.

However the challenges around content acquisition and building relationships is what will likely slow or hinder any smaller player trying to enter this domain. Perhaps if services like Ipidi that come from well funded operators jump in first, there might be some disruption of sorts.

However Multichoice openly declared its plans to explore content distribution through existing fibre networks across Africa, a position that will extend the Naspers dominance of this area into the next generation.

3 Comments

  1. Anthony Somerset says:

    Multi-choice’s main issue that probably prevents them from rolling out content distribution via fibre is that it really needs them to either be an ISP or team up with an ISP at a very deep level so that it can be supported correctly

    If its not done right (something like perhaps video via seperate channel of your internet service on the fibre etc) then you could see huge complaints from customers not able to recieve decent service because they are on a poorly shaped and too slow connection required to stream video correctly – Doing it right requires an integration with an ISP that becomes complicated commercially etc

    i wouldn’t be surprised if they were looking at it though as they already said – ZW is a more ripe market compared to the cash cow of SA given the relatively good coverage of fibre and high speed connections locally

  2. Nuendo says:

    For instance Sky has already done that in Europe by offering uncapped broadband access but that’s €80 a month just imagine fast access and your Tv too wait till the IT infrastructure develops in Zim then Netflix will say hello to Zimbabwe

  3. JA Matrixstream says:

    Indeed, operators that can provide a suite of services rather than TV alone, will be best-positioned because they have multiple revenue streams with their chief profit center likely being broadband access. If they are shrewd, those providers will invest in programming with the understanding that TV is a hook to lure valuable customers to internet accounts, wireless and other products.

    DSTV and other “pure-play” companies do not have the luxury of other sources of income and will therefore be forced to continue to invest very heavily in locking up exclusive access to international networks, which will become evermore expensive as the broader African pay TV market matures and content distributors see that more money is to be made by signing non-exclusive deals. This pattern is playing out in the States and Europe and should likewise unfold in Zimbabwe and across Africa.

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