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We handle all support for your connectivity. This shortens diagnosis and resolution timelines and takes the frustration away from you.
Centracom utilizes Pindrop, a market leader in connectivity feasibilities, quoting and connectivity project management with over 50 connectivity providers mapped in to their database. This enables Centracom to instantly quote on DSL, Business Fibre, LTE and Wireless, giving Centracom one of the most complete voice and data offerings in South Africa.
A network provider is the company that builds the actual infrastructure in a specific location such as an office park or a housing complex, and an Internet Service Provider (ISP) puts the service across this infrastructure and invoices the client.
The service the ISP delivers is the connection to the Internet and is defined by the speed and capacity of the Internet connection and is responsible for invoicing the client. The ISP then pays the Network Provider a “connection fee” each month. This can cause confusion for a client as e.g. they are told that MFN are in their complex but yet they have to sign up with for the ‘business fibre service’ with Afrihost.
When a Fibre Network Provider allows other ISP’s to supply services across its infrastructure this model is called an Open Access Network. This model is/was most prevalent in the now end-of-life ADSL product from Telkom, and in most Home Fibre services in South Africa. Open Access Connectivity is not common in Microwave or LTE as the infrastructure owners provide the ISP services for LTE and Microwave themselves.
Most Business Fibre Network Providers only offer their own in-house ISP services as they required by the client to offer strict SLA’s. A typical business SLA is a 99.9% uptime of the service, which allows up to 4 hours of downtime per month. Because of this stringent service offering, the Business Fibre Network Providers and can’t afford to have the physical network portion and service portion split between them and an ISP in terms of timings and cost for the client. Also, the management and support of Business Fibre clients falls within business hours and so the networks are happy to do this. Home fibre clients’ require service after business hours so their service desks’ will run 24/7/365, so the Home Fibre ISP make up for the low margins and high support costs with large volumes of clients.
There generally are no SLA’s for Home Fibre services. A repair can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, and they are not contracted to resolve issues quicker. This is called a Best Effort Service. Due to the difficulty in managing thousands of clients 24/7/365, Home Fibre Network Providers offer their infrastructure on an Open Access basis with ISP’s who specialise in marketing to and managing thousands of clients directly and simply paying the network provider the connection fee. A good example of a very big ISP for home users in South Africa is Afrihost.
The relationship between an ISP and a Fibre Network Provider physically works in a fairly simple way, and most Connectivity business models in South Africa follow the same basic principles. The Fibre Network Provider will have their Last Mile fibre to the building or home of the client and carry the signal on its network or via other providers like DFA (see “How a Fibre Network is built”) all the way back to its server in a large Data Centre. The ISP will be based in the same Data Centre and will connect via a cable to the Network Provider and put their services over the Network Providers network. Most Network Providers in South Africa are based in Teraco in Isando, but there are many other Data Centres around South Africa, and a similar arrangement will be made depending on where the Network Provider aggregates its network.
All ISP’s will be based in the same Data Centre as the Network Provider they wish to connect to and will have a connection from their server to each Network Provider’s server via a physical cable called a “cross-connect”. Because of the growing number of physical cross-connects in a Data Centre modern day Data Centre’s are starting to use “virtual cross-connects” where the network provider is connected to all ISP’s by 1 cable, enabling all ISP’s on the virtual cross-connect to be able to offer their services to all clients on a network providers network. These cross-connects come at a fee charged by the data centre and this is why sometimes you get 1 ISP in a small business or residential complex, and many ISP’s in larger complexes.
Fibre Network Providers that have their infrastructure within your business or residential complex have fibre from a meeting point on site (usually near the gate) to your office building or house where they install a Fibre ONT (Optical Network Terminal). This ONT device converts optical light to digital signalling and is installed by the Network Provider for the ISP to connect their router. This router is the device a customer would connect to with WiFi or a network cable. Sometimes where a network provider is also providing the ISP service, they will have the ONT and ISP router within 1 device.
The fibre from the meeting point of your office park or complex to your building or house is called the “Last-Mile Fibre” and most office or residential complexes usually have 1 last mile provider. A second network provider won’t want to incur the expense of “fibering up” an office park or complex unless it is guaranteed all the clients using its network.
The fibre within the office park or residential complex is aggregated at a point usually near the gate and is connected to a Network Providers fibre network that runs down that street. This street is connected to all other streets in that neighbourhood and this collection of interconnected streets in a neighbourhood is called a Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) known as the “Metro Layer”. Each Metro Layer in a city is interconnected by a huge fibre link that runs around a city and is called a “Core Network”. This Core Network connects to the various Data Centres around a city where the ISP’s are hosted. Cities are connected via National Fibre Networks, and these National Fibre Networks are connected to each Undersea Cable system like WACS or EASSY.
What is interesting is that you can have one fibre provider who owns the Last Mile, another fibre provider who owns the Metro Layer, another who owns the Core Network, another who owns the National Fibre Network and then various providers and/or consortiums who own each Undersea Cable connecting South Africa to the world. Because of the cost to build a fibre network, no Network Providers’ network is linear or the same as they are all interconnected in many different ways. In most cases a provider will look to use infrastructure from another provider that already exists provided enough capacity is available at the right price. You get certain providers like DFA who specialise in this space specifically, and whom most fibre networks in South Africa run through.
A new Business Fibre link ordered often requires a Last Mile build from the Metro Layer to the office building. The cost of this Last Mile build is significant and the business fibre Network Provider’s only way of recouping this from a client is to amortise the cost across a fixed term. That is why once you have signed a Business Fibre agreement, it is very difficult to cancel the contract. Only in extreme circumstances will a provider allow the cancellation of an existing fibre agreement.
Factors contributing to long Business Fibre Contract Cost and Terms (12 / 24 / 36 / 60 months)
Home Fibre has a different arrangement in terms of the Last Mile as a single Network Provider will install the fibre within a complex after negotiating with the bodycorporate and share the cost with all homeowners of the complex when they sign them up.
Installations within a complex are usually run within existing ducting (such as an old gate intercom), lowering the costs further. All that would need to happen when the homeowner makes contact is that that the ISP would install its own router in the home, which will connect to the ONT device left in the home by the Network Provider during the complex installation, or the Network Provider would be called back in by the ISP to connect a new ONT device. A Network Provider can have multiple ISP’s providing service across its network within the complex. These ISP’s sign up the client, provide the service and bill the client each month and pay the Network Provider a monthly “connection fee”.
Factors contributing to short Home Fibre Contract Terms (month-to-month and up)
Centracom manages many Business Fibre providers on behalf of its clients and manages new links as well as upgrades and escalates with providers to ensure that any issues affecting a client’s service gets sorted out quickly. In extreme cases of non-performance or the adherence to an SLA, Centracom has sought relief for its clients by facilitating the cancellation of a Business Fibre service.
Business Fibre requires a large amount of civil work to get new fibre trenched and ducted to a new client. This all depends on the distance and any other obstacles like roads and bridges and rivers etc.. The cost is usually significant as the civil contractors are paid upfront for the work, and the Network Provider will amortize these costs across a fixed term with the client.
Home fibre installations are cheaper because this installation cost is shared by all homeowners within a complex. The fibre providers installs on risk as they don’t directly recoup the costs with each homeowner, but are happy to recoup these costs when each homeowner signs up across time as they are usually the only provider in the complex.
Sometimes a business gets lucky with a business fibre provider approaching a business complex in a similar fashion as Home Fibre complexes. The Network Operator is happy to offer better Terms and a more competitive cost for the Business Fibre Solution, and in some instances may appoint a Business ISP to manage the complex. This arrangement is on a business complex by complex basis.
Building a section of a fibre network takes a lot longer than people think. Apart from the physical build, several approval processes have to be undertaken, as well as the technical setup after the physical build. A fibre network build can be broken in to 4 distinct phases:
Road Agency Approval
In South Africa an approval from each city’s road authority like Joburg Roads Agency (JRA) through the wayleave process is required. This is usually the longest part of the build process due to the volumes of requests on South Africa’s Road Agencies. The wayleave process entitles the holder to bury cables or access utility lines on a road reserve in a specified manner (distance inside reserve and depth of cable to be laid etc.). This is required because a road reserve may have many other services already in the ground such as electricity, water, sewerage etc. and the wayleave process guides a contractor.
Over and above a Roads Authority’s approval, a business or home complex would need approval from the various governing bodies, and this could take additional time.
Once approvals from the Roads Authority have been received, a civil contractor will need to start with the digging of the trench to lay the fibre withing. Once dug, a conduit pipe gets put down as well as the fibre ducting within the conduit. This is handled by the sub-contractor. This can take long as some builds require the trench to go under roads, rivers, rock, water pipes, sewerage and other obstacles.
Once the trench has been backfilled and checked, only then is the fibre “blown” into the duct via an air compressor. Once the fibre cable is in, it is then spliced (joined via heat fusion) and connected to the passive equipment of the network provider on both ends.
Once the fibre is “lit” (active equipment installed) and working then the setup on the technical provisioning side is commenced. This takes in to account any ISP settings as well as any client settings required. Once this is complete it is then handed over to Centracom and the client can commence using the fibre.
Centracom manages all installations with each provider on behalf of its clients via its Project Management Office. Centracom manages the entire process, reducing installation times for its clients.
Centracom uses Pindrop, a sister company of Centracom to manage all of it’s Connectivity. Pindrop has mapped and/or integrated via API with over 50 providers on its platform. A location is searched on Pindrop via a Google Maps lookup, and all providers are interrogated live for line-of-site, and subsequent pricing at that location. Centracom via Pindrop has a commercial arrangement with each provider in South Africa.
Most Network Providers and or ISP have a service like this running for themselves, but nobody in South Africa offers this service for all Networks of Business Connectivity Services and manages each service installation, support, and billing directly like Pindrop and Centracom.
An example of this tool, albeit a watered-down version, is available on this website found here.
Business fibre and wireless connectivity are two different types of technologies that businesses can use to connect to the internet and other networks.
Business fibre refers to a type of internet connectivity that uses fibre-optic cables to transmit data. These cables are made of thin strands of glass or plastic that transmit data as pulses of light. Business fibre is generally considered to be one of the most reliable and high-speed options available, capable of delivering symmetrical upload and download speeds with low latency. It is typically more expensive than other types of connectivity, but can provide greater reliability and bandwidth for businesses that require fast and consistent internet connectivity.
Wireless connectivity, on the other hand, uses radio waves to transmit data through the air between devices. This includes technologies such as Wi-Fi and cellular data networks. Wireless connectivity is generally more convenient and flexible than fibre, as it doesn’t require physical cables to be laid and can be accessed from a wider range of devices. However, wireless networks can be more susceptible to interference and signal degradation, which can result in slower speeds and less reliable connectivity.
Overall, the choice between business fibre and wireless connectivity will depend on a business’s specific needs and budget. Businesses that require fast, reliable, and consistent internet connectivity may prefer fibre, while those that need more flexibility, convenience at an affordable price may opt for wireless connectivity.