FibreCo must maximise FTTH

Farzana Rasool
By Farzana Rasool, ITWeb IT in Government Editor.
Johannesburg, 25 May 2012

FibreCo must enable the maximisation of broadband to the home, since it currently sits at only 2%, says communications deputy minister Stella Tembisa Ndabeni.

The telecommunications venture officially kicked off its first phase of a 12 000km fibre-optic network earlier this month.

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.

Reducing poverty

“President [Jacob] Zuma, in his State of the Nation Address, announced that, as government, we will be placing greater emphasis in South African infrastructure development this year. In line with the State of the Nation Address, the Department of Communications and the ICT industry, through the compact signed with industry in 2011, we are echoing the same, putting emphasis on the roll-out of broadband, with all parties committed to 100% broadband coverage by 2020.”

Ndabeni adds that it is for this reason the FibreCo launch is so important. She says this investment contributes to the compact signed with major industry players. “And, of course, infrastructure investment has the potential to reduce poverty and inequality by increasing access to services.

“It is also noted with great expectation that this investment is aligned with and satisfies many of the current aims of the department, namely: increasing local investment; reducing barriers for efficient broadband infrastructure by being an open access network; increasing competition; migrating to universal access and service; cost and price reduction; and service quality measurement and control by means of service level agreements.

“I hope the entrance of FibreCo in the market will enable us to maximise broadband to the home in our quest to ensure universal access to all. Broadband to the home is estimated at 2% and this situation cannot continue unabated.”

Department strategy

Of this 2%, the majority of connections are on ADSL over copper with its limited bandwidth, says the deputy minister.

“Users have only recently been exposed to 10Mbps speeds over copper where in a number of countries speeds of 100Mbps are now seen as the minimum or broadband entry-level product. Many South African fixed-line users are still limited to using dial-up services with speeds of 64Kbps and below.”

Ndabeni says it is universally accepted that the path to high broadband access speeds lies with optic fibre, where the optic fibre is taken as close to the broadband user as possible.

“In order for SA to improve its position in world broadband rankings, it is essential that the broadband coverage, penetration and speed are increased, through among others, optic fibre. It is seen as essential by the department and is thus part of future strategy that the fibre is extended as close as possible to the user, which is, broadband to the business and the home.

“My humble request to FibreCo is, please let us work very close with provinces and municipalities as we roll out this infrastructure, to avoid perpetual digging of the ground by operators.”

Creating jobs

At the sod-turning ceremony held in the Free State, 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.