It is amazing to think that just a few years ago, South Africa was suffering massive bandwidth constraints coupled with extremely high costs for connectivity, particularly when one considers the speed at which the long-awaited large scale arrival of fibre has changed all of this.
Already most large enterprises have access to fibre and smaller business parks, particularly the newer ones, are receiving access to fibre as part of the development process. Fibre is often laid as part of the civil services that are trenched for such developments, which in turn acts as a draw card to bring businesses in.
This means that the next logical step is to begin the rollout of fibre to the home (FTTH) and make this an offering that is the norm, rather than the exception. Although FTTH already exists, it is mostly limited to certain wealthier areas. Nonetheless, the commercial aspects around fibre are slowly starting to change. The majority of cellular towers are backhauled by fibre so this is definitely extending the reach of fibre and making FTTH a much clearer value proposition for service providers.
On the commercial side of things, we are seeing an increasing number of businesses choosing to use much bigger fibre pipes. In the past, most businesses tended to purchase lower value fibre services – such as 4Mb or 10Mb services – without realising that the main cost lies in actually getting fibre to their building. As this mindset changes, we are seeing more companies opting for substantially better connectivity services for what is effectively a negligible extra cost.
All of this leads to the question: where is the future of fibre likely to lie? The answer is that as we move forward, the key will be to make fibre services more user-friendly. This will be achieved by delivering these in what is, in effect, a pay-per-use model, allowing the consumer to decide how they use and consume the service. For example, a user could choose a service based on contention ratios, quality or capped or uncapped services, and then pay according to the offerings chosen.
The right aggregator would, ideally, be able to offer a pay-per-use model that operates at such a granular level that a company that needed to increase its connectivity speed or bandwidth capacity for as little as an hour would be able to do so, and pay accordingly. The idea is that an organisation can change its services as required and as its business needs alter. Such a service would inevitably be aimed, at least initially, at the corporate business market, although it would, ultimately, also prove useful to SMEs and even home users.
The good news is that a service of this nature is just around the corner and has been technically tested and proven to work already. What is required now is buy-in from the service providers that ultimately supply the fibre networks.
Pay-as-you-use fibre connectivity is undoubtedly going to be a massive disruptor, delivering the right capacity, at the right time, to businesses of all sizes. Local enterprises may have thought their existing fibre services were something special, but the real game-changer is yet to come – just wait and see what the future brings!