The Parkhurst Residents and Business Owners Association (PRABOA) has nominated Vumatel as its preferred provider to supply fibre to the area, after a competitive proposal process. The adjudication committee reviewed 16 proposals from operators such as MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, Dark Fibre Africa, SA Digital Villages, ATEC, Liquid Telecoms, ClearlineIS, Posix and Cool Ideas. Security providers Cortac and CSS also submitted proposals.

“We chose Vumatel because of their excellent technical proposal, a solid business plan that showed the project was financially viable and fully funded, a comprehensive community communications plan, and commercial terms that were very favourable to the residents,” says Ryan Hawthorne, PRABOA’s technical advisor.

Vumatel’s proposal included:
* A once-off installation fee of R2 500 per household;
* Line speeds of between 4Mbps and 1000Mbps. The 4mbps line speed will be offered free of charge, with the next line-speed of 50Mbps charged at R499 per month. The 1Gbps option will be offered at R1 299pm. All options have contract terms of 24 months;
* Bandwidth can be purchased from a number of competing providers, at an estimated cost of between R2 and R10 per Gb depending on usage. Some providers may offer uncapped access.

“Vumatel’s open access model really impressed us,” says Hawthorne. “By decoupling the line cost from the bandwidth cost, we’re ensuring that residents will have a wide choice of operators through which they can purchase bandwidth.

“Their 4Mbps free option also appealed to us in order to get the community on board. Getting about 20Gb of bandwidth on a 4Mbps fibre line for perhaps R150 per month is a no-brainer for the majority of residents,” says Hawthorne.
Parkhurst has long suffered very poor broadband coverage due to its distance away from the nearest Telkom exchange in Rosebank, and its variable 3G coverage.

“To get 1mbps reliably is very difficult,” says Hawthorne. “We believe the fibre rollout will change people’s perspectives on what is possible with broadband.”

The fibre rollout is expected to take between 6six and 12 months. An information-sharing session with the community will take place within the next two weeks.

A new entrant to the FTTH market, Vumatel is headed up by Niel Schoeman, a founder of Conduct Telecommunications SA, which has built over 40 last-mile fibre solutions for business precincts in South Africa and was recently sold to Dark Fibre Africa.

“We’re very pleased with the result of the process,” says Schoeman. “We’ve been assessing Parkhurst as a pilot project for over a year. With the community showing such great interest, we had no hesitation in bidding.

“We look forward to working with the Parkhurst community and residents to start this grass-roots telecoms revolution. It is time for consumers to get a better service, choice and a fairer deal.”