South Africa’s economy is struggling. High interest rates and weak household finances are pushing investors and buyers to the sidelines, and homeowners are under increasing pressure to find alternative ways to ensure that their property remains relevant and attractive.
Gone are the days when manicured gardens and interior décor were the main selling points. According to the FTTH Council Africa, there are other ways to ensure that your property is desirable and it has nothing to do with the 3 Ls.
Juanita Clark, CEO of the FTTH Council Africa shared her insight into the Council and fibre progress in South Africa.
Juanita, tell us a bit more about the FTTH Council Africa.
The FTTH Council Africa is an independent, not-for-profit organisation and active member of the Fibre Council Global Alliance (FCGA) alongside the FTTH Council Europe, Asia Pacific, North America, Middle East and North Africa. We have more than 550 members globally and our work is funded through contributions of members who agree that the deployment of fibre optic broadband networks will enhance the quality of life for citizens in South Africa and increase effectiveness and competitiveness within the global marketplace.
Why was the FTTH Council Africa established?
In 2010, the FTTH Council Africa was founded by individuals who believed that the organisation could help to define, position and advance the fibre optic market in South Africa. The industry was new, it had glaring gaps in legislation and needed an independent voice to raise awareness of its issues, and support the development of industry professionals. We work closely with government organisations and bring the industry together. Our members take leadership roles in establishing industry standards, best practices, education, and promotion of fibre optic networks as the only sustainable architecture that will serve the needs of future generations.
As far as industry associations go, the FTTH Council Africa has seen tremendous growth. To what do you ascribe this?
Simply put, consumers’ demand for bandwidth and the experience that FTTH promises. Consumers are living much smarter lives, and want to be ‘always on – always available’. They want to watch what they want, when they want to. They want their homes to be smarter, and they want their communities to be smarter. Fibre optic infrastructure promises to do all this and more. This is why communities that are connected with fibre are becoming increasingly attractive to live in and why properties are seeing an increase in value.
FTTH is touted as the ultimate form of broadband access. Why is this?
Fibre is the ultimate form of broadband access for a number of reasons. Firstly, there is the most obvious component – speed. Fibre optic cables are glass tubes with casings that allow light pulses to bounce to the end and they are significantly faster than traditional copper cables in terms of bandwidth.
Furthermore, there is quality of service. Traditional wired cables are more susceptible to signal interference and noise, which can result in loss of data or picture quality. For a while, homeowners were the cause of delays in rolling out broadband networks in their neighbourhoods. This was in the early days when consumers did not understand what it was all about. Today it is a very different story, and HOAs are really trying to make themselves attractive and are learning how they can capitalise on the fibre in their communities.
What can fibre do for a community?
The bulk of FTTH deployments have been about fast internet. However, fibre optic infrastructure is so much more than that. At this year’s ARC Conference we are taking a look at what fibre can do for a community if applied correctly. For instance, communities can use existing fibre to deploy video surveillance in their communities and, although this is a very simple example, the impact is that it can translate into reduced insurance rates if it can be demonstrated that the HOAs are attempting to safeguard their communities.
We are also taking a look at smarter homes and have invited an expert in FTTH who has deployed his own fibre project in an estate to share some valuable lessons. Communities are scratching the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the actual application of what the technology can do for them, and FTTH is certainly not just about a fast internet connection. It is imperative for communities to know how to make their areas more desirable and what else they can do with the technology.
According to the FTTH Council Africa, there is a financial benefit for homeowners who have fibre optic infrastructure in their communities. Is that true?
Research shows that homes that are connected with FTTH have an increased value of between $5 000 (US market) and $11 000 (Asian market). This is fairly significant if you think that you can have this increase in property value without investing a cent.
In South Africa we are trying to educate estate agents on FTTH and reminding homeowners to inform estate agents if their home is fibre connected. A study in the USA conducted in 2014 by the FTTH Council USA found that there was a higher per capita GDP in communities where gigabit internet was available. It also found that homes sold for seven percent more if they had access to 1Gig broadband. Even though South Africa has been a bit behind the rest of the world, the trend is certainly picking up, and we believe that South African homeowners can ask for R50 000 more if their home is future ready.