How I got fibre

8 September 2020

Draft, expect typos, spelling and grammar errors, etc ——- last updated 8 September 2020

Spoiler: I don’t have fibre yet, but will have soon.

It’s a humid Sunday afternoon in mid February 2020 on the KZN South Coast.

View from home

Everyone in the house is hot, moody and stressed out because of the internet that drops to dial-up speeds. Netflix and YouTube cannot even be attempted.

Actual Speedtest result from that time

No matter how many times I call, email, tweet, etc customer care, there’s nothing they do to solve the issues.

Rain was our main ISP at the time and they eventually admitted the LTE (4G) tower that our router connects to from here is extremely congested and there is nothing they can do about it. I’ve gone as far as getting in touch with one of the founders of Rain, who just told me to cancel. Read more about it here

To work, I’ve been tethering from my iPhone, but at R70 (± $5) a gigabyte, it’s not really practical.

Despite the super slow internet speeds, I started researching what alternatives are available in the area. The obvious options kept circling between, ADSL (no chance we dealing with Telkom again after the copper theft fiasco), Wireless ISP’s / Line of Sight (slow and expensive), and then back to unreliable 4G / LTE. Wrecked.

I was literally browsing all major providers’ websites, both fixed and mobile, and especially coverage maps where you’d go to your address and it shows what’s available and what is not. It wasn’t until I browsed on Vodacom’s coverage map and clicked on the business fibre and saw a red line going past our house.

Out of desperation, I contacted Vodacom, despite being one of the most hated internet providers in SA, and asked for more info regarding their Business Fibre. They got back to me and said it’s not their infrastructure (belongs to Link Africa), but they offer services on it and sent me a quote…. R2000 per month (± $130) for a 10mbps line and a minimum 24 month contract, excluding installation.

Sure it’s extremely expensive for what you get (considering home fibre around R1300 for a 100mbps line), but at least the speed and uptime is guaranteed, so downtime will be a thing of the past… yet, the lengthy contract is a deal breaker. The internet ecosystem is moving way too fast to be bound to contracts. So Business Fibre also not an option. Not even sure if I’ll be here in two years time.

But at least I found out that there’s a backhaul running into our neighbourhood, owned and operated by Link Africa. It’s actually used to power the mobile providers’ towers. I did some scratching and noticed Link Africa do have some FTTH networks around and fairly decent pricing. I contacted them and they confirmed they have backhaul and said all I need to do is gain enough interest from residents and they will install. Easy right?

So they created an expression of interest form for our neighbourhood to complete and it would be passed on via the local WhatsApp groups.

About a week in I got an email back from Link Africa, saying that they received about 80 sign ups and they will pass on this details to another provider called Bundu Networx. They are extremely positive about it.

Excitement kicks in, I’m finally gonna get fibre!!

About a week later, I message them asking if they are making progress as I’m pumping with excitement.

Hi Ronald - you’re going to need to give me a little more time please - I will update you next week.

Thanks
D
Link Africa

Okay, maybe I’m a touch too impatient, so I leave them in peace to let them do their thing….

About 3 months later (May 2020), not a word from Link Africa yet. A whole group of people on Whatsapp is anticipating Fibre, asking me when they will have a connection, I send them (Link Africa) another email asking if they have any updates for us.

Hi Ronald

I am sorry Link Africa is not in a position to rollout in Freeland Park right now.

Regards
D
Link Africa

I emailed Link Africa back, asking if I could have a copy of the data they collected ont he expression of interest just so I can continue hunting for fibre companies. They sent me a copy.

Emotionally wrecked and imposter syndrome spiked through the roof.

I was so confident for two months that we will have Fibre, especially on the WhatsApp groups, now suddenly I have to break the news that there’s no fibre coming. I figured, no chance. There’s no way I can not get an FNO (Fibre Network Operator) to bring us decent internet. There’s areas not only in SA, but in the world, that’s much smaller and less developed, yet they all have 100mbps home FTTH. I need to do something about it.

I spent the whole Sunday finding contact details of almost every FNO (and some ISP’s, because maybe they know someone) that I could find online. Copied and pasted the same message, with the occassional personalisation and sent out about 35 emails.

Good day

Myself and the majority of the Freeland Park neighbourhood in Scottburgh are very interested in Fibre, considering copper and ADSL is being phased out + LTE isn't the most reliable. 

I'm in touch with about 100 households in the neighbourhood, all pushing for Fibre. 
I run a WhatsApp group and I'm in the process of compiling a database of everyone's name / email / phone number / physical address.

From the researrch I've done, there's multiple backhaul fibre providers that run straight past Freeland Park (Link Africa, DFA and Openserve to name a few) and all we need now is an FNO to do the last mile. 

Could you please advise us how we can get started with this and what else you need and perhaps even consider looking into deploying here.
There's a great push from the community in the area at the moment, not only from Freeland Park, but also the greater Scottburgh. 

Regards
Ronald

The week starts and apart from the automated email responses 🤖, I get one reply from Link Layer. Nothing from the major companies. Link Layer offers to lay fibre, if I get 50% of the whole of Scottburgh (not just our neighbourhood) to fill in the expression of interest. Sounds good, but Scottburgh has about 4200 households according to the 2011 census… first thing that goes through my mind is, “How on earth am I going to get 2100 people to complete a form?” Getting about 100 people just for Freeland Park was already difficult as it is.

I passed it on to a friend who is running the same fibre campaign for Scottburgh South, but Link Layer didn’t show too much interest.

The following week, I posted the same message on the MyBroadband forum hoping someone knows something or someone.

On 10 June 2020, I get the following private message on MyBroadband,

Good afternoon Ronald

I saw your issue regarding internet.
I would like to see if we can’t assist you with getting FTTH in your area!

I am from an FNO call Linteg Fibre.
We do roll outs like this.

Please feel free to contact me at any time

Johan
Linteg Fibre
[phone number]

It was like God sent an angel 👼.

I immediately added Johan’s number on Whatsapp and sent him a message.

About 5 mins later he calls me and we had a brief chat. I mentioned where we live, what we’ve tried, how many households in the area and how many of us wants fibre, etc, etc, etc.

I sent him our coordinates and he said he’ll look into it from their side. I also sent him the expression of interest forms I collected, with about 100 names and addresses on of people who wants Fibre in our Neighbourhood.

About a week passes and Johan + the CEO of Linteg calls me, saying that they have a strong business case and will laying Fibre throughout the neighbourhood. Of course, it’s all subject to further planning such as Municipal permits, etc etc etc, but everything looks positive from their side. Green light! 🚀

A few weeks later I met up with the regional planner, Sean, who came to do a site survey of the neighbourhood. We had a quick chat on our driveway and everything looked super positive.

July came and they officially applied for municipal wayleaves to be legally allowed to dig the place up.

On the last Friday of July, I received a message from Linteg Fibre confirming that the wayleaves have been approved. Hell yes!

Only then we let the Whatsapp group know we have a green light and fibre is on the horizon. Happy days!

Couple weeks went past and on the 26th of August we received an update from Sean that Linteg have officially started installing.

Good morning All. We are very pleased to announce that work is commencing. 
We will provide specifics on progress and which roads will be affected. 
We will also be distributing marketing materials.

That confirms it… We did it.

Linteg is bringing us the long overdue fibre optics! 🍾

And that is not limited to only our neighbourhood, Freeland Park, but they also decided to invest in the greater Scottburgh South and Pennington and have started trenching there as well as far as I know.

Trenching is currenly heavily in progress, but it’s great to see it in progress, from Idea 💡, the building process 🚧 and hopefully soon, the result which will be a 100mbps Fibre Connection, at home.

So yeah, now we’re just waiting for the installation to complete. Hopefully it’s live by November / December.

Will keep updating and add to this post.

Thoughts?

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