Joburg awards broadband contract

3 March 2009

Johannesburg residents will soon be “smart digital citizens”, with the first phase of the Johannesburg Broadband Network Project (JBNP) set to be rolled out in April.

The metropolitan municipality announced this week that Ericsson had been chosen as the preferred service provider to partner with it. The roll-out of the network will take three years, after which Ericsson will operate it for five years.

City councillor in charge of finance and economic development, Parks Tau, said the broadband network would take the city well beyond its historical core business of service delivery.

“This is as essential as the provision of water and electricity and will also help improve response times to crime and emergencies because the city’s closed circuit television network will be linked,” he said.

One of the benefits city residents can look forward to is an enabling environment in which they will have affordable access to the internet and e-services. The service will be offered to residents at a reasonable fee.

The broadband network also shows the municipality’s commitment to bringing it in line with international trends in municipal broadband deployment.

“We regard access to broadband as a key driver of economic growth and wealth generation. Through this initiative we will ensure that all the citizens of Joburg gain access to universally available, reliable and affordable broadband,” Tau said.

The municipality still needs to decide in which areas it will initiate the roll-out with the inner city, Orange Farm and Poortjie being possibilities.

Trial networks

Over the last year, the municipality reviewed 11 mini trial networks to test the ability of interested parties to deliver on the ground.

Ericsson was chosen as the preferred partner because it is able to supply an end-to-end solution, its extensive experience in delivering similar networks around the world, its strong local presence, and its commitment to empowerment and transferring skills.

The company’s core network architecture was designed to integrate with current infrastructure, allowing the deployment of a full wireless network supported by power line communications and container kiosks to ensure that transmission could be directed to points that would otherwise be difficult and expensive to serve.

The network will provide a minimum of 1.2 terabits a second of municipal core bandwidth and bring with it WiFi, or wireless technology; wimax, which provides wireless data over long distances in a variety of ways; FTTP (fibre to the premises) technology; and power line communications.

It will also be a first for the Gauteng province and will benefit surrounding municipalities like Ekurhuleni (Greater East Rand), Mogale City (Krugersdorp) and Tshwane (Greater Pretoria) with a wide area network providing bandwidth of up to six megabits per second.

Costs

The network, which comes at no additional cost to ratepayers as the JBNP is a self-funding model that will sell off spare capacity to operators, is valued at about R1-billion.

Ericsson has partnered with several very capable local black economic empowerment companies to operate and manage the multi-play communications infrastructure network over the next five years.

“From the outset, the city has focused its efforts in finding a partner who not only has the technical and commercial credentials to deliver on an initiative of this magnitude, but also supports the balanced and shared rollout the City of Joburg requires to increase and accelerate universal affordable broadband access,” said the municipality’s economic development executive director, Jason Ngobeni.

Tele-networking, video conferencing and WiFi hotspots would alleviate traffic congestion and save costs, while video streaming, internet access and online applications would facilitate information sharing, stimulate socio economic development and improve health services and security.

“The benefits and possibilities of a digital city are numerous for not only the City and its entities but for residents, business, hospitals, educational institutions, tourism and entertainment,” he said.

Ericsson South Africa MD Jan Embro said the prospect of transforming Johannesburg into a truly digital city was an exciting challenge.

“The awarding of this tender is confirmation of Ericsson’s proven ability to provide comprehensive end-to-end solutions that meet the needs of both telco and non-telco customers.”

Source: City of Johannesburg