In this episode of The Broadband Bunch, we are in South Africa at the FTTX Council Africa Conference. We have the opportunity to hear from Juanita Clark, CEO of FTTX Council Africa, Siphiwe Shandu from Dark Fiber Africa and Graham Crooks, Manholes from Africa.
Graham Crooks: Our role in FTTX is to supply products ranging from access chambers, underground access chambers for the fiber networks as well as the ducting, therefore. We service network owners, the network builders, the build and transfer people.
We work in the municipal field with water networks. Our product offers cost and installation savings, speed of delivery of any network build is I think important now as well as safety aspects. Our products are generally lightweight, high strength. That eliminates the need for machinery handling equipment and a lot of the work is reduced to just manhandling and there’s a lot of safety implied.
Graham Crooks: Ten years ago, access chambers or manhole were brick. It’s was a three-day process of putting an underground chamber together that gets covered forever. The traffic disruption, the implications for networks is huge. Having prefabricated lightweight, easy to use products reduces that to less than an hour and it’s massive for the industry. We have also developed sensor models for different applications. The first thought is always about locking mechanisms. We have a management tool that is cell phone activated. It can run on multiple networks. It’s remotely controllable with security aspects as required.
Graham Crooks: Our biggest drive now is going to be aiming at the environmental aspect. Traditionally plastics, when secondhand material is added, are regarded as inferior. We have to help the market over that hurdle to accept that any plastic product really needs to contain reground material reaccessed out of the environment without compromising quality or performance life.
This industry is unendingly growing and with the advent and growth of edge technologies and IOT and all these new sciences, the horizon is unending. The unfortunate thing for me is nobody is focusing on the environment. Nobody is working towards, what are we going to be doing to stay alive in 15 years time – and that’s my biggest disappointment in the industry.
Graham Crooks: We are expanding aggressively into Southeast Asia and Europe and for now I think that’s enough. We do a lot of work into the greater Africa area and we will stabilize first over the next two to three years in those chosen territories before we go further.
From a fiber industry point of view, the utility build is globally huge and from a utility point of view, the other, the water, the sewer and the gas networks. There is a lot of maintenance replacement work, but it’s not a growth industry. So really fiber or the fiber areas our biggest growth area and that’s global.
Brad Hine: Well knowing that for most of the service providers, utilities and municipalities, this is one of their biggest cost is building the fiber network. It seems very obvious that your product would help maintain that and make sure that we keep it in check for years and decades to come.
Graham Crooks: We are passionate about maintaining a cost level. For three years we have not had price increases on our products – that’s through innovation. We want to go further where we reduce our product price annually by introducing things like material regained out of the environment. We cannot endlessly keep increasing the cost of things. We need to find innovative ways to maintain.