South African investment bank Investec has acquired a minority stake in Vumatel, the company that’s been rolling out open-access fibre networks in select South African suburbs. The scale of the deal has not been revealed, but speaks to both the growing interest in fibre — and particularly fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) solutions — in the South African market and to Vumatel’s rapid rise from a minor player in the sector to one that’s encouraging swifter movement into the fibre market by the likes of Telkom, Vodacom and MTN.
Vumatel currently operates in seven South African suburbs and began by rolling out fibre optic infrastructure in Parkhurst, Johannesburg in 2014. The company is currently adding six more suburbs to its open-access network (an open-access network is one where consumers can choose which service provider to use once the physical fibre is installed) while eyeing more than a dozen more neighbourhoods.
“We are very excited about our investment in Vumatel,” says Kobus Viljoen of Investec. “We like the business and the experience of the management team. They have lead the FTTH revolution in South Africa, setting the bar for the industry in how it should be done. Their commitment to creating affordable, high-speed open-access fibrehoods through focus on customer service will have a fundamental impact on the telecommunications industry.”
“This partnership will furthermore assist in speeding up both transformation within the economy and changing the lives of consumers,” Schoeman adds. He says the investment will enable Vumatel to connect up to 100,000 homes by 2016.
Vumatel asks communities interested in having it roll out fibre in their areas to register interest on the company’s website. It prioritises which areas it rolls out in based on the level of interest. Demand, meet supply.