Fibre land grab turns to gold rush

Rob_WebRob Lith –

In a recent article we noted a spate of excellent low-cost fibre-based Internet offerings from a spread of providers, pointing out enormous benefits for customer of all sizes and fortunes.

And while there has been little to suggest any downside, signs are that a kind of gold fever is gripping the telco providers of eGoli, Cape Town and Durban, leaving customers feeling bombarded and bamboozled by unclear offerings.

The following are tactics that customers should be wary of in this new era of abundant, well-priced access.


A common tendency is to over-complicate offers. This can be a form of exploitation or simply inexpert marketing – for years the mobile networks made it virtually impossible to compare their offerings to others, before relenting with simpler charges.

But whatever the reason for this frustration of consumer choice, a degree of simplicity is required. The problem can be addressed on a number of levels.

One problem area is the habit of throwing geek-speak into sales pitches. An IT manager might be OK with hearing about different rates of contention, but a small business owner – the true target here – cannot be expected to know that an 8:1 ratio makes for an acceptable experience, or that 4:1 is better.


Customers further note a troubling trend among providers to engage in a spot of fear-mongering. The customer absolutely MUST get fibre, or they’re dead in the water.

That’s nonsense, of course. Their lives will be infinitely better if they do get fibre, but now they won’t go for it, because it is suddenly a grudge purchase. Why this indecent haste to peddle a product that absolutely everyone will buy, given enough time and information?


Another grabbing tactic is the habit to pitch everything and the kitchen sink at the customer.

If someone merely wants a quote for fibre access, or is locked into a current PBX contract, undue pressure to take extra services could result in another provider getting the business – and with it, a foot in the door for future up-sell opportunities.

Yes, extra services (a PBX, phones, managed access and the like) may meet a need that the customer doesn’t even know about, but forcing the issue before meeting the customer’s first need just looks terrible.


Affordable fibre access is truly a watershed market development for South Africa, but the long-suffering telecoms customer (and fellow recessionary warrior) won’t rush to swell providers’ coffers when they feel deceived or exploited. They have suffered enough and deserve offers that strike a balance between simplicity and transparency.

How this is addressed in real life depends on the marketing nous of the provider. Suffice to say, what is needed in these exciting but fraught times is the steadying hand of a trusted advisor whose offerings meet specific customer needs and are easy to understand, order and use.

Those who provide that comfort will emerge as partners of choice entrusted with ushering in the latest wave of change on the communications landscape.


About Rob Lith

ICT industry heavyweight and internet specialist Rob Lith has been involved in the industry for the last 20 years. Coming from a strong sales background and with a lifelong interest in technology, Rob has an in-depth knowledge of internet markets, technology and products. He sees VoIP, location-based services and presence as the “next wave” of technological advancement. Rob started out in the retail sales business in London in 1978. Returning to South Africa to join Compustat in 1989, he soon moved up to Durban to head up its KZN branch. He found a like mind in Steve Davies, who became his long-term collaborator. Rob extended his knowledge of the SA technology and internet business at internet Africa (which became UUNET, then WorldCom, then Verizon) before striking out on his own in 2003 to co-found Connection Telecom.

About Connection Telecom

Connection Telecom was founded in 2004 as a pioneering, independent provider of proven carrier-grade IP PBX solutions to Southern African businesses. The company’s team boasts more than 80 years in collective telecommunication experience. Connection Telecom offers solutions and services based on the Telviva family of enterprise PBXs and other products aimed at enterprise customers, smaller businesses and vertical industry applications. Feature-rich, managed and open (extensible), these solutions allow freedom of choice in handsets and add-ons, a low total cost of ownership and call cost savings of up to 40%. The company has offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg with on-site support in 28 locations. Its major clients include Engen Petroleum, FNB, Lewis, RMB Asset Management, UCS, Old Mutual Finance and Vox Telecom. For more information please visit:   

Rob Lith, Co-Founder & Director

Cell: 082 389 3332

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