Local ISPs reveal the fibre network operators they hate working with

  • ISPA surveyed 50 ISPs to gather sentiment about South Africa’s numerous fibre network operators.
  • Metrofibre came out on top after receiving the most positive scores from the most ISPs.
  • However, ISPA notes that smaller ISPs scored far above the major players in the space and ISPs should consider partnering with them.

While end users have to deal with internet service providers (ISPs), these organisations are often at the mercy of the fibre network operators (FNOs) they use. Yes, even your ISP has to deal with customer service when your internet goes down thanks to a fibre break.

As with ISPs, not all FNOs are equal and the level of service ISPs receive from these organisations can vary wildly between companies.

Recently, the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) conducted a survey to find which FNOs its members were loathe to work with and the findings are revealing. ISPA polled 50 ISPs in February and asked these organisations to rank their experience from 0 – 10 using 11 criteria namely:

  • Value for money (line fees and port fees),
  • Reliability (network uptime, packet loss and network stability),
  • Support (responsiveness, resolutions times and SLAs),
  • Technical proficiency (network design, MTU size and use of technologies such as Option 82 and IPv6),
  • Communication (network notices and scheduled maintenance events),
  • Friendliness of staff (ease of doing business, friendliness, helpfulness and how knowledgeable employees are),
  • Business processes and operations (ordering, migrating, cancelling and billing),
  • Software systems (the FNO’s ISP portal, ticketing system and GIS system),
  • Adherence to Open Access principles (ethics, fairness, and avoidance of conflicts of interest),
  • Optimism that the FNO will improve in the future,
  • Likelihood of promoting or recommending this FNO to other ISPs.

Many FNOs are only used by one or two ISPs so we won’t be looking at those, rather, we’re looking at the FNOs that are used by a high number of local ISPs.

Fibre Network OperatorAve. score (Aug 2023)Ave. score (Feb 2024)Change
Link Africa5.96.8+0.9
Liquid Intelligent Networks4.75.9+1.2
Dark Fibre Africa5.85.0-0.8

The biggest mover here was Liquid Intelligent Networks which improved by 1.2 points on the average score. This is impressive and if the trend continues, Liquid could win over the hearts and minds of more ISPs. Conversely, Vumatel and Dark Fibre Africa performed the worst. The pair appear to rank particularly poorly in terms of support which is incredibly important given the wide number of ISPs these two firms serve.

The best FNO to work with, according to ISPs is Metrofibre which scored high across all metrics including technical proficiency, business processes and communications. Interestingly, Openserve was the top scorer in reliability according to a large number of ISPs. Octotel scored the highest in terms of support.

“FNOs hoping to improve their score in the future should consider streamlining the support they provide to ISPs making sure they have processes and staff capacity to resolve common issues, such as the difficulties consumers face when trying to migrate lines between ISPs. For the February survey, ISPs were given the opportunity to provide freeform feedback to each FNO. This feedback unexpectedly revealed the importance of FNOs’ account managers. ISPs with a good account manager tended to rate that FNO far more positively, while those with a less skilled account manager were much more critical towards that FNO overall,” ISPA reports.

But it was the smaller FNOs that impressed.

“Despite being ranked by fewer ISPs, some of those networks did very well, with Evotel (7.5) and Zoom Fibre (7.4) achieving higher averages than all of the large networks. Lightspeed (6.7), Lightstruck (6.5), Thinkspeed (6.3) and Seacom FibreCo (6.2) also fared well. ISPA encourages ISPs who aren’t yet connected to those networks to consider expanding their coverage footprints with new partners,” the association writes.

For those interested in the full results, head to ISPA website.

The association says that it is trying to bring FNOs and ISPs together to create a set of FNO and ISP Best Practice Recommendations. Those interested in joining that conversation are encouraged to get in contact with ISPA.

[Image – Bruno from Pixabay]


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