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FibreCo breaks ground on national network

Cell C CEO Alan Knott-Craig says FibreCo's infrastructure development is critical to government's ICT agenda to lower broadband costs and increase penetration.

Telecommunications venture FibreCo yesterday officially kicked off its first phase of a 12 000km fibre-optic network.

FibreCo, a partnership formed in 2010 between Cell C, Internet Solutions and Convergence Partners, will invest R5 billion in a long-distance fibre-optic network over the next five years.

At a sod-turning ceremony held in the Free State yesterday, construction started on a 2 000km link between Johannesburg and Cape Town, which will be connected through Bloemfontein, East London and Port Elizabeth, providing access to a wide range of rural and smaller urban areas along the route.

FibreCo says the project is expected to create close to 2 300 jobs, directly and indirectly, across the country. “An estimated 70% to 80% of the network construction relates to civil works, to be carried out by technology partner, ZTE Corporation, in collaboration with local engineering firms and subcontractors.”

The company will also train at least 200 fibre-optic technicians, who will be certified under the internationally-recognised Fibre Optic Association.

Cable capability

The technological advantage of the network, says FibreCo, lies in the fibre-optic cable comprising several insulated, flexible and transparent fibre-optic glass strands no thicker than a human hair.

“This fibre cable will be laid in underground ducts through a sophisticated linear construction process. Once installed, the cable will offer unrivalled connectivity and stability, with each individual fibre pair being capable of transmitting over 1 600Gbps of data.”

Other broadband network operators will be able to make use of FibreCo's open-access model to directly access and light up their own dedicated fibre-optic infrastructure.

Government goal

FibreCo says the network will accelerate the delivery of affordable, reliable and fast Internet access to South African citizens and enterprises, in turn contributing to achieving government's objective of 100% broadband penetration by 2020.

FibreCo chairman Andile Ngcaba says the network will not only contribute towards the private sector's infrastructure development drive to boost economic growth and create job opportunities, but will also bring broadband accessibility to poorly connected rural areas.

Cell C CEO Alan Knott-Craig says the gap in access to broadband connectivity in SA's rural and urban areas exists mainly because of a lack of cost-effective broadband transmission infrastructure.

“FibreCo's broadband infrastructure development is critical to government's wider ICT agenda of bringing down the cost of broadband access and increasing broadband penetration across SA by 2020.”

FibreCo has signed capacity purchase agreements with British Telecom, Cell C and Internet Solutions, as its first three clients, and expects to start offering services on selected routes from early 2013, with the link between Johannesburg and Cape Town anticipated to be operational in the latter half of 2013.

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