Finally, G-Link kicks off

Read time 3min 20sec
A 1 600km fibre network will connect more than 300 provincial buildings and 20 priority townships.
A 1 600km fibre network will connect more than 300 provincial buildings and 20 priority townships.

Gauteng's ambitious broadband project has finally kicked off, with a tender calling for the development and maintenance of a province-wide broadband network that will incorporate 1 600km of high-speed fibre.

The initiative aims to provide coverage to 95% of the province's population.

The objective of the request for proposals, which have to be submitted by next Friday, is to enable the provincial government to achieve strategic broadband objectives under its Gauteng Link (G-Link) project, which includes digital inclusion.

G-Link, previously known as the Blue Umbrella project, has been on the cards since around 2008, but stalled over recent years.

Last February, Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane said the province was rolling out the G-Link Project with the plan to cover 95% of the province. In the middle of the year, the province said Deloitte Consulting had been appointed to assist with a roadmap.

G-Link is central to its efforts to build a knowledge economy and some municipalities had already started rolling out the project, said Mokonyane. "The work currently under way seeks to roll out network infrastructure between 2012 and 2014."

Making the connection

Now, the province has issued a tender that calls for the establishment of a broadband network for the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG). It requires the winning bidder to design, build and operate the network, on its behalf, under the Gauteng Broadband Network brand.

The province-wide network will provide broadband fibre access initially to GPG-owned buildings, Thusong service centres, economic zones and the top 20 priority townships, for five years.

Bidders will be subject to government's National Industrial Participation Programme (NIPP), which was launched in 1996. NIPP aims to "leverage economic benefits and support the development of South African industry by effectively utilising the instrument of government procurement".

The programme is mandatory for all government and parastatal purchases or lease contracts with an imported content equal to or more than $10 million - currently the equivalent of about R88.5 million.

Suppliers to government are subject to an industrial participation obligation of 30% of the imported content. The aim of the programme is to benefit SA through job creation, increase local sales, promote small and empowered companies, as well as research and development and technology transfer.

Fibre feed

The design will include a next-generation network and a core network that provides MPLS/VPN converged network services. Some 45 Thusong centres, 20 townships, six urban renewal nodes and nine economic zones will have to be hooked up with a minimum access speed of 1Gbps.

In addition, the winning bidder will have to implement infrastructure to support interconnect agreements to other licensed and international provider networks, which will support voice and data requirements for 130 000 provincial employees and users at 316 locations.

Gauteng requires an estimated 1 600km of fibre to connect all its buildings onto a network. The core network will consist of an initial eight core locations, no greater than 80km from the next core location, which will be connected by a 10GB "protection ring".

The provincial buildings will be connected by 1GB "protection" rings to each other and through dual 1GB connections to one of the core locations. Each core node will host 10 rings made up of 10 buildings in a ring.

According to the tender, the core network will allow the provision of Internet, virtual private networks as well as IP-based telephone services. The operator will provide customer service responsibilities on the wholesale services provided across the network.

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