Powertel Communications, the State-owned Internet Access Provider with its fingers in VoIP, broadband, VPN and prepaid electricity distribution services recently added unlimited Fibre to the Home (FTTH) packages to its broadband lineup.
These new packages are the latest iteration of Powertel’s Fibre-to-the-x strategy which had previously been limited to areas with a VPN presence and mostly utilised by Powertel’s corporate clients.
The new FTTH service will rely on an overhead fibre rollout strategy that will utilise electricity pylons owned by ZESA, the national power company which is also Powertel’s parent company.
For as little as $35 subscribers can now access an unlimited Fibre service with speeds of 3 Mbps while $55 can get a premium package that offers speeds of 10 Mbps.
These packages become the cheapest on the FFTH market, beating the other uncapped offerings from competing internet providers. Powertel’s $35 package also undercuts other entry-level Fibre offerings like the $36 – 20 GB capped package from TelOne, ZOL Fibroniks $39-for-15 GB deal and the $35 – 11 GB package from Telco Velocity Broadband.
The $35 -$55 price range for unlimited fibre is going to be hard to beat for the other internet providers in the FTTH space. As such these competitors will likely be leaning on other advantages in order to maintain a lead in the Fibre services market. These include a wider fibre presence and a lot of brand capital earned through exhaustive marketing strategies.
Powertel’s Achilles heel in all this will be its limited fibre presence. For now, its FTTH packages are only available in and around the Braeside area in Harare (where ZOL had already set up its infrastructure).
This limited coverage is hardly enough to take on the extensive investments made by ZOL and TelOne that have been the leading providers of FTTH throughout the country.
Powertel has acknowledged this coverage deficiency and according to officials from the provider, plans are in place to address this. Over the next few months, Powertel will be expanding its fibre footprint by continuing to tap into the extensive infrastructure network provided by ZESA.
An investment in the future of the internet?
By increasing its investment in Fibre services, Powertel seems to be gearing up for the changes in broadband consumption patterns and internet usage trends.
There is an increasing demand for fast and stable internet connections that are able to ensure the delivery of various forms of content without interruptions.
Data-intensive services like social media and Video on Demand (think Netflix) have now been brought to people’s doorsteps and any internet provider that can handle such loads will be best suited to provide value to consumers and consequently sell their services to them at the end of the day.
In addition to this, CDMA technology, which has been a core element of Powertel’s broadband strategy, is in decline. In a recent POTRAZ quarterly industry report, CDMA internet subscriptions registered a 2.2% decline from 84,828 to 82,959 connections.
It’s a minor drop, but when stacked up against a 53.4% increase in Fibre connections, there is a reason to assume that these new FTTH packages are just the first steps towards a type of internet that subscribers are slowly beginning to appreciate as a more suited alternative for their internet use.