Scramble for City’s fibre market

Augetto Graig,Mathias Haufiku
The race to connect Windhoek suburbs to the internet is heating up, with several companies investing millions of dollars to become leaders in the budding fibre optic market.
Service providers are currently scrambling to roll out fibre in neighbourhoods to add to the country’s existing 18 790 km network.
The custodian of all this, the City of Windhoek, said it does not have statistics on the size of the network in the capital because “the system for updating the actual fibre network is still underway”.
It did, however, indicate that 10 km of fibre has been installed this year. The Khomas Region has a fibre optic network of 1 776 km.
Official figures indicate that the municipality has issued 15 wayleaves for fibre optic infrastructure this year alone. Wayleaves are instruments that allow service providers to install and maintain their infrastructure within the city.
For now, though, a lack of connectivity means an opportunity for investment as Windhoek - and the country at large - experiences a digital boom.
“During the first quarter of 2024, the total amount of investments stood at N$267 million on all forms of telecommunications infrastructure, but we do not have it segregated between different type of infrastructure,” the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia’s (CRAN) executive for communication and consumer relations Mufaro Nesongano told Network Media Hub last week.
While there is an emerging trend of added interest in the digital infrastructure space, how the digital optic fibre scramble for Namibia will play out remains a mystery.
With the demand for sufficient bandwidth among businesses, universities and households on a steep increase, network operators are spending big money to meet the demand.
One major factor driving demand for high-performance bandwidth in the country is a growing and youthful population that sees connectivity not as a luxury, but an essential. For Namibia’s over two million young people, broadband means access to educational, economic and social opportunities.
Mobile broadband has an important role to play, but fibre-based fixed-line infrastructure is also vitally important in connecting mobile towers and giving users affordable last-mile access to high-speed services.
Numbers game
Research from We Are Social indicated that there were 1.37 million internet users in Namibia at the start of 2023, compared to 1.33 million in 2022.
Namibia was home to over 729 000 social media users in January 2023, and it boasted a total of 2.81 million active cellular mobile connections in Namibia.
Data contained in the report also indicated that internet users in Namibia could have expected mobile internet connection speed via cellular networks which averaged 18.30 megabits per second (Mbps), and fixed internet connection speeds of 8.28 Mbps in 2023.
Between January 2022 and January 2023, data reveals that the average mobile internet connection speed in Namibia decreased by 1.69 Mbps (-8.5%), while fixed internet connection speeds decreased by 0.85 Mbps (-9.3%).
According to the Digital 2023: Namibia report published on DataReportal, businesses and marketers should leverage the high mobile connection rate in Namibia to reach a wider audience.
The report further noted that despite the increase in internet users, almost half of the population remains offline, indicating potential for growth in internet services. “The growth in social media users suggests a shift in communication and information dissemination, which businesses can capitalise on for marketing and customer engagement,” it read.
Another factor is the rapid rise of video, with streaming services such as Netflix and Showmax expected to place greater pressure on network operators to ensure quality and uninterrupted internet services.
In the corporate space, the demand for cloud computing services such as those provided by Amazon, Microsoft and Google to upgrade IT infrastructure also adds to the ever-increasing demand.
Maintenance plan
Recently, Windhoek residents have been subjected to major ground-digging works as private contractors rush to lay fibre optic cables.
At least three homeowners in Khomasdal, who spoke on condition of anonymity, bemoaned that the companies laying the fibre do not rehabilitate the pavements and roads back to the state they found them in.
“My house has interlocks in front of the yard, but as you can see they just dug here, did their work and left this mess. The manner in which they put back these interlocks is so disjointed that I am now forced to get someone to come and redo it at a cost,” one of the residents said.
Another resident said it took almost a week for one of the companies to pick up the rubble left in front of his yard. “The roads are also damaged and uneven due to the manner in which they fill them.”
Commenting on this, City spokesperson Lydia Amutenya said each fibre optic service provider in Windhoek has its own infrastructure plan.
“The City’s involvement primarily focuses on ensuring that quality standards are met during installation. Additionally, the restoration of roads and sidewalks to City standards is part of the process,” she said.
She said pilot holes are used to ensure protection and maintenance during the installation process.
“Private contractors responsible for laying fibre optic cables are held accountable through the conditions outlined in the wayleave agreements," she added. "These conditions cover various aspects, including quality assurance and the restoration of infrastructure to City standards. By adhering to these requirements, contractors are expected to minimise damage and ensure that the installation process does not negatively impact existing infrastructure”.