Afritel (Pty) Ltd is a joint venture company between FNI Telecommunication Infrastructure (Pty) Ltd (FNI) and Botes Investment Holdings (Pty) Ltd. Both parties were historically involved with numerous fibre projects throughout South Africa since 2009, involving key role players in the fibre industry.
FNI, principle contractor to Metro Fibre Networx (Pty) Ltd, tested various micro trenching methodologies since 2015. However, historic participation by municipalities was lacking and restricted operators to deploy micro trenching in municipal roads.

MetroFibre Networx is a pioneer in the installation of fibre networks utilising micro-trenching in the South African market. Micro-trenching is done by specialised machines and trained operators who cut a narrow and shallow trench into the road surface right alongside the pavement where the curb and tarmac meet. A micro-trench is typically 30 to 50 mm wide and can be up to 400 mm deep, usually 200 mm for fibre purposes. The fibre conduit and cable are then placed in this micro-trench and the area is then backfilled and sealed with a specialised trench grout which restores the road back to its original surface.

Summerstrand in Nelson Mandela Bay participated in a proof concept with MetroFibre Networx and FNI and has become one of the first areas in the Eastern Cape to get fibre internet infrastructure installed using “Micro-trenching”. The results have been a much faster, cleaner and less disruptive process for residents and metro alike.

Afritel positioned itself as a specialist in micro-trenching and recently acquired six Marais Cleanfast machines, mounted on Mercedes-Benz Actros 3355 chassis. Originally imported from France and homologated in South Africa, the units were used in a completely different application to that of micro-trenching. Most of their work was focussed on the construction of a backbone infrastructure for Dark Fibre Africa, by Muvoni Weltex Network Technologies (Pty) Ltd. After the contract, the units were acquired by Wolff Autohaus who were on hand to meet the requirements of Afritel and supply the units for the Nelson Mandela Bay contract.

Wolff Autohaus is a family owned used commercial vehicle dealership which was established in 2000 and who have over the years established themselves as a leading dealer in reliable, good quality, refurbished, commercial vehicles.
“The management and sales team were particularly excited back in 2013 when we procured these six Mercedes-Benz Cleanfast vehicles. We knew very little of these vehicles but understood that their application was unique and extremely specialised. It took many hours of research to determine the best target market for these trucks and it was only in 2019 that we found the right customer in Afritel, who negotiated for the purchase of all six units,” said John Wolff, Managing Director of Wolff Autohaus.

The units were not entirely to specification, so Afritel developed and built its own cutting wheels which were incorporated into the design of the units, adapting them to the requirements of micro-trenching. This allows the company to enter into joint ventures on turnkey projects with clients requiring fibre applications.

Afritel have assessed the requirement levels of fibre throughout South Africa and will be deploying this methodology on a national level in order to accelerate connectivity to the fibre interne