FibreCo eyes SA broadband shake-up

15 November 2010

A new player in South Africa’s rapidly evolving telecoms scene, FibreCo Telecommunications, has announced plans to develop a national open-access fibre-optic broadband network to improve connectivity and further reduce internet costs in the country.

FibreCo is a partnership between cellular operator Cell C, ICT firm Internet Solutions and investment management and advisory firm Convergence Partners.

Construction of the network will follow a three-phase approach and ultimately cover a total distance in excess of 12 000km. The initial phase will focus on rolling out a 4 500km redundant core ring linking Gauteng, Cape Town and Durban to international cable landing stations within two years.

“FibreCo’s objective is to completely transform the dynamics of SA’s broadband sector by building and managing a long-haul national fibre-optic transmission network on an open-access model,” Cell C CEO Lars Reichelt said in a statement last week.

“By enabling a step change in the affordability of true high-speed connectivity for customers across South Africa, FibreCo is aiming to have a strong positive socio-economic impact for the country by improving the overall broadband.”

Open-access pricing model

With the landing of the Seacom cable, and the imminent arrival of several undersea cables bringing international connectivity to South Africa, focus has now shifted to developing local infrastructure to support high bandwidth usage.

Local telecoms operators MTN, Neotel and Vodacom are busy building their own national fibre-optic network, while state-owned Broadband Infraco has also recently unveiled plans to build a national broadband network.

“While the cost of international transmission has dropped significantly since 2009 with the arrival of new undersea fibre networks, national transmission in South Africa still accounts for a very significant proportion of telecommunications costs to end users and constitutes a critical bottleneck to ordinary citizens and businesses,” said Convergence Partners chairman Andile Ngcaba.

“Through its open-access pricing model, FibreCo will effectively transfer the significant economies of scale inherent in fibre-optic networking technologies to its customers, paving the way for lower broadband access costs for end users, improvements in communications service quality and innovation and enhanced regional connectivity.”

Maximising opportunities

Cell C’s extensive national wireless network will provide the platform for the co-location of optical transmission equipment at their base stations as well as wireless access solutions for FibreCo’s customers.

Through Internet Solutions, FibreCo has access value-added networking solutions into the enterprise market, including facilities for the hosting of its customers’ optical termination equipment in urban centres.

Through Convergence Partners, the company will have top expertise in the development and financial structuring of large-scale telecommunications infrastructure projects.

Convergence Partners has a stake in the Seacom international cable, and also has a joint venture with satellite-maker Intelsat, with the aim of launching a satellite dedicated to African telecommunications by the fourth quarter of 2010.

“FibreCo’s approach will maximise the opportunities afforded by the massive increase in international bandwidth capacity coming to SA’s shores via undersea cables over the next couple of years and allow South African businesses and end-users to fully experience the opportunities created by the rapid advances in voice, video and broadband computer applications worldwide,” said Internet Solutions MD Derek Wilcocks.

SAinfo reporter

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