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Proposed collaboration framework for the provision of fibre predeployment in all new builds

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Proposed collaboration framework for the provision of fibre predeployment in all new builds

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3 min read

Summary

The summary below is an overview of the introduction of a proposed collaboration framework strategy for the private property development industry, as it relates to the pre-deployment of fibre infrastructure.

The proposed framework was discussed over four months, and included three webinars, with private property development and management and Digital Council Africa. In addition to the webinars, digital communication and surveys where distributed to get a further understanding of the position of the market. The goal of the four-month campaign was to gather insight into the market’s understanding of fibre pre-deployment and to review challenges faced by property developers and residential community managers.

Introduction

Prior to the start of this four-month introductory campaign, as an industry leader within the property development and residential community environment, Estate Living has been sharing information around the value of fibre infrastructure and connectivity since 2015.

What we have noted during this five-year period is that the market has gone through stages of growth and development.

At first there was no or limited information in the market; this led to housing communities being misinformed by operators, and quickly the reputation of the fibre industry was tarnished. In 2016, in collaboration with the Digital Council Africa (then the FTTH Council), Estate Living started an educational campaign.

Over the last four years we have seen a shift in the approach of community managers, the demographics and the needs of the investors within community living spaces. Existing residential housing communities were the early adopters of fibre and connectivity.

Huawei and Estate Living

CAMPAIGN 1 – The introduction of a collaborative framework document

With the launch of the first webinar, Estate Living (on behalf of Huawei) introduced a new concept of collaboration to South African property developers and housing community management. Huawei presented the various installation models followed internationally. The webinar coincided with proposed changes in the Communications Act. Based on the survey and engagement during and after the webinar, several challenges that community management, developers and operators face were discussed.

The challenges were:

  • Some property developers not making provision for telecommunication
  • Home owners and residents not taking up services
  • Landowners not understanding the proposed Communication Act
  • A lack of information around how to connect your development
  • Operators’ installation expenses

It was made apparent that each sector works in isolation, and this creates inefficacies and loaded costs. Although the collaboration would be a framework developed within the private sector, the role of municipalities and building regulators was highlighted.

Campaign 2 – Collaboration between the private and public sector around fibre predeployment

Taking on board lessons learned in webinar 1, Estate Living engaged with the public sector, driving interest in collaboration with the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) and the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), and offering them the opportunity for a round table discussion with property developers, community management and operators. Webinar 2 enabled all parties to highlight their challenges and get a better understanding of how a collaboration could work. Based on engagement and survey responses, property developers, if given the right framework, would make provision; however, they don’t necessarily want to take on the role or costs of the operator.

Campaign 3 – The opportunity that fibre pre-deployment can offer a developer, and the way forward

In the final webinar of the 2020 series, we engaged with two developers who see fibre as a utility like water and electricity. They are developing large-scale sustainable communities with fibre infrastructure as their backbone. This webinar highlighted the possibilities for developers to make provision – possibilities that go way beyond just internet connectivity but also include renewable energy and security of supply. In the feedback session, it was made apparent that the developer market is in need of specification guidelines.

Conclusion

Property developers in South Africa answer different income needs; what is noticeable is that property developers who have an established record and cater to a buyer in a higher income group were the first to identify that fibre is a utility like water and electricity. But how this rolls out is still an unknown factor, and each development is isolated. Some developers are taking on the role of developer and operator; others use the services of an operator or defer this decision until the homeowners association comes into play.

New developers in the retirement sector, such as Cosmo Developers, are only now starting to include fibre infrastructure, with Waterkloof Marina being their first project.

However, the challenges remain the same; whether the developer makes provision or not, the competitiveness between operators and pre-COVID slow uptake in some communities have created inefficient and costly environments.

Moving forward, the collaboration framework should look at:

  • cost management agreements between government, operators and developers
  • educational campaigns that drive service uptake within communities
  • access to infrastructure information and specifications
  • the reduction of roadblock to market, such as lengthy and costly municipality permissions
  • a strategy around access to infrastructure on the urban edges
  • installation training and job opportunities
  • education around technologies such as 5G.

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