iBurst invest R100m into fibre network in Gauteng

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

Privately held telecommunications company iBurst is investing more than R100m in a fibre-optic communications network in Gauteng to help it better address the corporate market and grow its retail consumer subscriber base.

The company is leasing capacity on Dark Fibre Africa’s network, creating a 25Gbit/s fibre ring linking its data centre in Gallo Manor, north of Johannesburg, to a backup facility it’s built in Midrand.

It’s also leasing access to fibre — at speeds of 20Gbit/s — linking Sandton, Midrand and Johannesburg central business district with the West Rand and the East Rand. In total, it has access to more than 180km of fibre in the province.

iBurst executive committee member Mike Brown, who heads up iBurst sister company Broadlink, says the deal gives the company access to one of the largest fibre networks in Gauteng. “This gives us ample capacity for scalability in the future to grow our broadband base,” Brown says. The network investment is being funded through operational cash flow and is not being financed through debt.

iBurst technical director Sasan Parvin says the company is replacing much of its wireless backhaul network in Gauteng — it has used microwave exclusively until now — with fibre. This means many of its base stations will be connected using fibre rather than wirelessly.

This, Parvin explains, will free up microwave spectrum, allowing iBurst to expand its coverage at the periphery of its existing access network. “We are planning to grow and expand the perimeter of the network,” he says.

iBurst has “just shy of” 80,000 retail subscribers, and wants to grow this to about 100,000 now that it’s overcoming the high-profile problems it’s had with its billing system. The billing problems caused widespread dissatisfaction among its users, prompting some to cancel their contracts.

The real growth, though, will come from the corporate market, where iBurst is hoping to provide fibre access directly into corporate premises. It has already signed contracts with two big companies — Momentum and Imperial Group — and Brown denies that the resignation over the past year of several senior iBurst Business staff to join new business Arc Telecoms has undermined its ability to serve the corporate market.