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Category: FTTH

Why the Fibre rollout process is slow

“Fibre rollout is slower than Telkom’s dial up. More chance of leaving the country, than actually getting it installed.” This comment left on the Frogfoot Fibre page represents a common frustration from residents eager to get fibre and unaware of the processes that have to be followed to deploy fibre in an area.

So, why exactly does it take so long?  Rikus Stander, Head of Department: Planning, at Frogfoot provides some insights.

For the purpose of this explanation, we will describe what happens in an area where Frogfoot handle BOTH layer 1 (deploying the fibre) as well as layer 2 (lighting up and managing the fibre).  In some areas, Frogfoot is dependent on a 3rd party to handle all layer 1 activities.

The process of rolling out Fibre To The Home (FTTH) into a neighbourhood starts with community engagement, usually after the Ratepayers Association, a similar representative group or community member approaches Frogfoot.  Exploratory discussions are followed by proposals and further talks.  Frogfoot usually does some high level network planning to develop a business case before discussions are concluded and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is finalised.  This can take 3 months or longer.

After the MoU has been signed, high level network planning is done to confirm the business case before discussions start with the local municipality to go over the masterplan, the approach and preferred methodology.

Once agreement has been reached on the masterplan, Frogfoot then needs to engage with all municipal departments and local utilities and telcos that have infrastructure in the area. This involves getting detailed information about existing services that need to be included in the wayleave application.  Frogfoot’s plans must take existing services into account in order to be least disruptive.  Very little, if any, of this information is in electronic format and needs to be manually captured into Frogfoot’s plans. It takes at least 1 or 2 months to complete the first draft.

Low, medium, and high voltage power lines need to be detailed as well as street light power.  Water pipes; mains, distribution and house feeds need to be drawn in. Telecoms cables from Telkom, Vodacom, DFA, Neotel, or any other licensed telco with infrastructure in the ground must be included.  All of this infrastructure needs to be taken into account while drawing detailed plans and engineering drawings, showing how risks to existing services will be mitigated.

These detailed plans are then compiled into a document known as a ‘wayleave submission’ which is submitted to the municipality for approval.  Every department that may have services affected by telecoms cable routes needs to sign off on the plans.  Frogfoot is one of many telcos submitting wayleave applications and municipalities are often short staffed. Once all these signatures have been obtained, a wayleave approval is issued.  If the design is accepted by all, this can theoretically happen on the first pass, but usually the plans are returned to be amended, sometimes as a result a department having future plans for changes to roads, services, etc. which they need taken into account. A small change can take a day, more complex changes a week or two.  Another round of requesting signatures then commences. This can easily add a month or two to the process.

Once wayleaves have been approved, a project kickoff meeting is held where all the parties that approved the wayleave are supposed attend to walk the routes. During this exercise, planners are supposed to point out anomalies where ‘as built’ is not quite the same as what exists on paper. Parties are supposed to identify issues which need to be taken into account. Final plans are then amended.

The project then starts with Frogfoot scanning the routes with Ground Penetrating Radar to identify pipes, cables and services that are not where they are supposed to be.  Pilot holes are dug where unmarked services have been identified. Despite all these measures, there are often instances where unmarked services are missed and are later disrupted.

Engineers, supervisors and contractors then meet on site to finalise the trench lines.  Once the trench lines have been marked out, permission is obtained from the municipality to commence work and work permits are issued.  Management of any 3rd party contractors involved in drilling, trenching and rehabilitation is vital.

The ‘civils’ work; trenching and drilling now starts. At this point, many people think that once the trench passes their house, they should be able to get fibre, but a lot work still needs to be done before that happens.

First, the drilling teams create ducts under roads and in some cases where it is necessary, under driveways and other obstacles. Frogfoot has a ‘as good if not better’ rehabilitation approach.  If it is determined that it will not be possible to rehabilitate to that standard, Frogfoot may, at their own discretion, use drilling to avoid trenching.

Once the drilling is under way, the trenching teams move in after them to prepare the backhaul links, then the feeder links between the node room and the various points where the fibre will be split into distribution networks are completed.  This is a time consuming process which needs to be done with care to minimize disruption to residents and municipal services, while ensuring the integrity of ducts and fibre is such that future service levels can be maintained at a high level.

Soon after the financing of the project has been approved, Frogfoot and the community representatives start a process to identify and acquire node rooms in the area.  A node room needs to be acquired, converted and populated with node equipment by the time the core network in that construction zone is completed.

As each trench is completed, ducts are placed in the trench and tested for integrity after the trench is filled and rehabilitated.  Once the ducting is in place, the fibre is ‘floated’ through the ducts, spliced together, or split where necessary, and tested before the network is commissioned.

Only once the network is commissioned in an area with backhaul, core, and distribution networks lit and commissioned, can orders which have been placed for fibre broadband be fulfilled.  This involves trenching from the manhole at the corner of the property, across the property to the nearest point in the house close to an AC power outlet.

Orders are processed depending on where the network is first live and ready. Depending on the company deploying the fibre network (Frogfoot makes use of FTTH fibre being rolled out by other companies), once the fibre past your gate is ‘lit’, it can take anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks to process your order, configure equipment, schedule a team for the access trench and complete the home drop.

The installation fee charged by the Internet Service Provider (ISP) covers the first 30m of trench, duct, and fibre, from the corner of your property closest to the nearest manhole to the closest electrical point in your house.  If the closest electrical point is more than 30 metres, you will need to negotiate a price, for the remainder of the distance, with the contractor installing the fibre.

Depending on the nature of the terrain, the agreed method of deploying the fibre and any specific conditions you might negotiate, the fee can be anything from R50/m upwards.

Please note that the commercial agreement for any work regarding the excess distance over and above 30m does not involve your ISP or Frogfoot Networks.

There are usually 3 items that are mounted to the wall on the inside of the house to enable Internet access via the fibre, the first being a small box in which the fibre from the road is terminated.  This is known, for obvious reasons, as a Fibre Termination Box and needs no AC power.  Close to this, an Optical Network Terminator (ONT) is installed which sends and receives light down the fibre.  Once the ONT has been installed, the link can be handed over to the ISP who then installs an Internet Router and connects it to the ONT. All Internet services such as browsing, email, video streaming, Voice over IP, etc. are enabled by the Internet Router.

It can appear at times that the fibre company is ‘doing nothing’.  Deploying a large FTTH network is complex and costly; requires careful planning, execution and liaison between many different parties to ensure it is successful. Rest assured, the Frogfoot team are as keen as you to see every home in every Frogfoot fibre precinct connected to Frogfoot FTTH.

We ask your patience while we attend to the detail that ensures a quality fibre network is available to serve you for years to come.

Ready to take the leap and get connected with Fibre? Check for coverage here!

Fibre helps drive SA economy during COVID-19 pandemic

Shane Chorley, Head of Sales and Marketing at Frogfoot Networks.

If the lockdown South Africa is currently experiencing is highlighting anything then it is to show that access to fibre has become as much a human right as electricity and running water. With many employees now having to work from home and others placed on enforced leave, high-speed, reliable, and affordable internet access becomes critical.

“Even if the country is still very much in a fibre deployment phase, the competitive landscape in South Africa has enabled fibre providers to roll out at aggressive rates. This has resulted in the growth of demand for fibre at homes with people discovering increasingly innovative ways to benefit from its use,” says Shane Chorley, head of sales and marketing at Frogfoot Networks, a wholly owned subsidiary of Vox.

Going faster

While installing a fibre connection inside a house can be disruptive, it provides a far more consistent experience than what is available from wireless technologies such as 4G, LTE, and 3G. As more home users are accessing a range of bandwidth-intensive applications such as video streaming services and video conferencing solutions, the wireless networks have struggled to maintain service levels.

“But once fibre is installed, the ability to upgrade it is relatively simple because it is a fixed-line connection. This also means that even if the home user is unsure about what line speed to get, the internet service provider can upgrade it in real-time to more accurately reflect their needs.”

This means that unlike 4G which has a theoretical maximum download speed of 100Mbps (assuming there are no other users on the network), a fibre line can be upgraded to 1Gbps with no contention (meaning the line speed is not impacted by the amount of users on your home network). To put this into context, a high definition movie might take 15 minutes to download over a 100Mbps 4G line when nobody else is using it. That same movie will take less than 30 seconds to download on the 1Gbps fibre connection even if other members of the household are using the line.

“Given the current COVID-19 crisis the country is experiencing, we have made the strategic decision to move customers to higher line speeds free of charge from 1 April to 30 June. This Double Up promotion is vital to mitigate against some of the economic impact the lock down will have on South Africans. With more people accessing fibre from home during this period, we anticipate some will use connectivity more excessively, whilst others might still maintain their usual behaviour. But given the increased demand for video streaming services and work from home solutions, this promotion will ensure a consistent user experience.”

Essential service

Chorley says that fibre providers such as Frogfoot are classified as an essential service, forming part of the telecommunication basket of providers. This means that it can continue running and maintaining its network.

“While we will be able to continue with home installations, some of the practical aspects around this will still need to be understood. There is a balance to what we want to do versus what is possible. So, even though we can certify our contractors and suppliers to work during this lock down period, the entire supply chain must be operational. For example, how will our contractors get access to what has been labelled as non-essential materials during this time?”

He says that the highest priority for the business will always be the safety of its employees and its customers.

“There has been a massive spike in demand for fibre over the past several days. We will put all the necessary health and safety checks in place for our contractors performing installations and we will never force ourselves into people’s homes. Customers must request an installation to take place and we will manage the process as safely as possible.”

Focus on infrastructure

Adding complexity to this is the confusion that still exists between what fibre providers like Frogfoot are responsible for and how internet service providers (ISPs) come into the process.

“People should think of us as the ones supplying the highway. The ISP manages the traffic on the highway. We rarely deal with end users as the ISP is the customer-facing part of the fibre journey. Fibre providers enable ISPs to do what they do and inject the infrastructure with different value adds. More user education is required in this regard, but we anticipate that the coming weeks will see people start realising and fully understanding the benefits of having a connected home and even a remote working environment,” he concludes.

Ready to take the leap and get connected with Fibre? Check for coverage here!

Who is Frogfoot? What do ISPs do?

Perhaps one of the most the frequent questions we get is, “…Aren’t you our Internet Service Provider?” So, what exactly does Frogfoot do, what does Open Access mean and what differentiates us from an Internet Service Provider? A lot, you’ll find. But we also all function together in an eco-system that ensures your fibre needs are always met.

The short answer is Frogfoot is a Fibre Networks Owner (FNO) and lays fibre in neighbourhoods. These lines are ‘rented’ by ISPs who choose to use our infrastructure. So, in a sense, your ISP is our customer and you are theirs.

Mind blown yet? Let’s continue.

The difference between Frogfoot (an FNO) and an ISP

A Fibre Network Owner manages and owns your fibre optic connectivity infrastructure. Our fibre optics are Froggin’ Fast and the infrastructure carries data to and from its originating point to its end-point. We provide connectivity to the Fibre to the Home (FTTH) and Fibre to the Business (FTTB) industries

FNOs are responsible for the build of the infrastructure which includes; trenching, laying down fibre lines and finally reinstatement before connecting the zone to the node. After an area goes live, you, the customer can start enjoying Froggin’ Awesome Fibre!

Customers can also pre-order while an area is in ‘WIP’ or Work in Progress. For more information on laying fibre in your neighbourhood, read this article.

Who is the ISP?

As David Lindeque of Afrihost phrased it, “As the ISP, we have to wait for the FNO to have completed their trenching and for them to have backhaul links in place to the data centre. The time between trenching and ready-for-order is dependent on the FNO, and this timeline varies per company.”

An ISP or ‘Internet Service Provider’ is responsible for the day-to-day management of your fibre line. Your ISP is responsible for ensuring your line is always active. If such a time comes that the fault is due to our infrastructure, the ISP will flag this with our technical faults, maintenance and provisioning department who will gladly assist with the issue.

Who do you call for line issues?

If you experience any issues with your line, please contact your ISP. They should always perform first line checks to ensure the issue is not related to your ONT. If there is another issue that your ISP cannot solve on their end, they will notify our Faults, Provisioning or NOC department.

“At times, the FNO may be experiencing an issue and at times it may be the ISP. When a client is experiencing an issue, it is the responsibility of the ISP to investigate thoroughly and, regardless of whether the issue is on the FNO side or ISP side, do everything they can to restore the client’s link back to optimal status,” says Lindeque.

Every fault logged is given a ticket with a reference number. This reference number is important so please ensure your ISP shares this with you. Fault tickets logged begin with ‘FF’ followed by 6 digits.

If you are querying an outage in your area, installation or billing, please contact your ISP. Please note, since we are an open access fibre company, we do not bill you for your internet package, this is done by your internet service provider.

Who do I call regarding installation?

Although Frogfoot may lay the fibre and install the fibre into your home, your first and only point of call is your Internet Service Provider. They will have all information regarding your line status, speed, connectivity and installation dates.

When you place your order with an ISP and your address is in a Frogfoot region, your ISP will place an order with us on your behalf. Your account details such as name, address, order date, etc, are loaded onto our system where we communicate back and forth with your chosen ISP.

Who do I contact to find out when my area is live?

Our coverage map is very easy to use and will give you the exact dates of your chosen area. Whether your area is still in the Planning stage, WIP (Work in Progress) or is about to go live, simply add your full address in the search bar provided for a detailed look at your forecasted live date. Click here to visit our coverage map now.

In short, we plan to provide fibre to as many areas in South Africa as we can. Our aim is to focus on secondary towns who are “data-starved” and suffer from poor internet signal and crawling speed rates.

Who do I call for reinstatements?

With the necessary trenching and laying of fibre in roads, pavements and driveways, some excavation and uprooting is needed. We always strive to ensure that we leave our builds, exactly as we found them. Should you be unsatisfied with our reinstatement, we are always happy to help in any way we can. Please contact ftth@frogfoot.com to report any issues and we will gladly assist.

Ready to take the leap and get connected with Fibre? Check for coverage here!

Realising abundant connectivity through Open Access Fibre

Shane Chorley, Head of Sales and Marketing, Frogfoot Networks.

When it comes to Fibre connectivity, the concept of an Open Access business model is here to stay. It provides the most effective way of driving competition between Internet Service Providers (ISPs) while giving customers freedom of choice at affordable rates.

Under an Open Access model, the Fibre Network Operator (FNO) provides an infrastructure that can be used by any number of licensed ISPs. This creates a clear distinction between the responsibilities of both parties. The roll-out and maintenance of the physical infrastructure, for example, the fibre cables, are the domain of the FNO. The ISPs, in turn, are responsible for the value-added services offered on top of that, i.e. the internet access and support sold to the customer.

It is also why many operators in smaller towns are still clinging to a traditional approach that sees them providing both infrastructure and connectivity to customers. For them, it is about capturing an entire community from both FNO and ISP perspectives to eliminate any potential for competition. The implication of this is that things like customer service and product innovation will often be neglected.

The carrot they dangle in front of consumers and businesses with a demand for abundant, reliable, high-speed connectivity, is low rates. But once customers are on the network, there is little stopping the FNO/ISP from regularly increasing prices, leaving users with no choice but to keep on paying due to a lack of competition or alternative options.

Access done differently

With Open Access, the above-mentioned situation, where customers are stuck, with no other options, becomes at thing of the past.

Take Frogfoot Networks as an example. We supply fibre to over 140 ISPs on our national network. This means consumers and businesses can choose an ISP that delivers the value they are looking for at a price they can afford. The ISP has the benefit of getting access to fibre infrastructure at a standard price so it can focus on competing on quality, customer service, and value proposition. The FNO can commit to connecting as many cities and towns to high-speed internet with the ISP responsible for switching the customer on.

Of course, the challenge with this is that the FNO does not have a direct relationship with the end customer. It is very reliant on the ISP to provide and support customers with the service and sell the Fibre. Fortunately, the relationship between the ISP and the FNO is a mutually beneficial one. Each needs the other to deliver on their own strategic mandates to succeed.

Connecting South Africa

Because Open Access is becoming a more common practice, we see that larger FNOs may consolidate the smaller FNOs in time. The larger businesses will continue to roll out infrastructure throughout the country and will engage more with the ISPs servicing towns in remote areas.

But, this will not come without challenges. By taking fibre infrastructure out of the equation, a smaller ISP must now focus on expanding into other areas. So, while some might have only delivered wireless services due to a lack of fibre infrastructure, this is about to change, therefore requiring a rethink about their service offerings.

But ultimately, the focus remains on delivering reliable connectivity to as many South Africans as possible. Larger FNOs are investing heavily in this infrastructure and using Open Access as their go-to-market strategy. To this end, we encourage ISPs to partner with those FNOs who have embraced Open Access and provide a more compelling value proposition to customers.

Ready to take the leap and get connected with Fibre? Check for coverage here!