Standard Bank Group has announced that it has successfully completed a R5 billion debt financing program for open access fiber provider MetroFibre Networx, to support its ambitious fiber optic data network rollout across South Africa. South.
According to a statement, the funding will be used to extend MetroFibre’s fiber connectivity to homes and businesses in underserved communities and help increase its reach by an additional 500,000 homes across South Africa.
Competition is fierce in the local fiber market, with local players looking to the township and smaller markets, commonly referred to as underserved markets.
Last month, MetroFibre unveiled MetroConnect, its pay-per-use fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) service, to address connectivity gaps in these regions.
Brett Russell, product development manager at MetroFibre Networx, says connecting underserved areas is a “challenge that MetroFibre is tackling head-on.”
“The need for quality and affordable Internet connectivity for work, education, transactions and entertainment is ubiquitous and has been rapidly intensified by the pandemic. We must find ways to transcend the limitations that prevent millions of South African households from accessing fiber connectivity and leave them dependent on expensive and limited mobile connectivity,” he adds.
Growing demand for fiber connectivity in many outlying regions provides opportunities to fill this critical gap, not only from a business perspective, but also from a socio-economic perspective, the fiber operator said. .
In April 2021, MetroFibre acquired Link Africa’s FTTH network and infrastructure in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, after Investec injected R2.5 billion in debt financing into MetroFibre, to help the open access fiber network operator to strengthen the deployment of its fiber network.
“Partnerships like these are a testament to how doing good in business is good for business, and in this case empowering South Africans through digital inclusion to drive meaningful social impact,” says Nishela Ramgoolam, Executive: Structured Capital at Standard Bank Corporate and Investment Banking.
“Access to the internet is fundamental to bridging the digital divide and empowering people to participate in the globally connected economy. This timely agreement with a proudly South African digital infrastructure company supports our mission to drive technology growth positive, sustainable and truly integrated across the continent, and to develop digital innovations that matter.
Launched in 2010, MetroFibre is a major player in the FTTH and fiber to business markets. The company says its free-to-air network currently serves more than 350,000 homes in six provinces.
“Our next era of growth will be defined by greater access to reliable telecommunications for the majority of citizens, with fiber connectivity playing an increasingly vital role in economic growth, improving access to education and the provision of a myriad of employee benefits,” adds Wayne Edwards, CFO of MetroFibre Networkx.