Broadband Infraco set for launch

27 October 2010

Broadband Infraco, the state-owned company tasked with improving internet access and bringing down broadband prices in South Africa, will start selling wholesale bandwidth capacity to the country’s telecoms companies and internet service providers in November.

In October 2009, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) awarded Broadband Infraco an individual electronic communications network services licence (I-ECNS).

The licence allows the company to sell high-capacity long-distance transmission services to licensed fixed and mobile network operators, internet service providers and other value added network service providers, which they can either use to expanding their own networks or resell to their customers.

“We’ve had the network for the last four years, but we couldn’t operate on it. We got our operational licence last year from Icasa,” Broadband Infraco account manager Charmaine Fredericks told MediaClubSouthAfrica in an interview on the sidelines of the My Broadband Conference in Midrand, north of Johannesburg, on 20 October.

“Neotel’s role as the network’s sole custodian comes to an end soon, and that’s why we’re launching. We can now go commercial and bring customers on board,” Fredericks said.

While the official launch will only take place in November, local website reports this week that several telecoms operators and internet service providers are either trialing or preparing to trial the Broadband Infraco network.

“Broadband Infraco has been providing backhaul capacity for Seacom traffic to Neotel, between KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, since 2009,” reports.

Major urban areas connected

Broadband Infraco has installed 11 000km of fibre-optic cable connecting Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town, Durban and other major centres including Bloemfontein, Kimberley, Port Elizabeth, East London, Nelspruit and Polokwane.

According to several media reports, the company is said to have spent approximately R1-billion on building its network.

Licensed operators will be able to buy multiple capacity increments of 155 megabits per second up to 10 gigabits per second, with Broadband Infraco’s lowest capacity service translating into being able to stream about 20 high definition (HDTV) movies simultaneously.

The fibre-optic cables are scalable up to hundreds of gigabits of data per second, depending on future growth.

According to an article on local website TechCentral this week, Broadband Infraco CEO Dave Smith says the company is now looking to the private sector to form partnerships, instead of replicating networks.

“Instead of building multiple cables to Mtunzini, why not consolidate and build it together. It makes more sense,” Smith told the website, which goes on to explain that Mtunzini, on KwaZulu-Natal’s north coast, hosts the landing stations for the SA-Far East, Seacom and the East African Submarine System cables.

Providing regional linkages

Broadband Infraco’s network also extends connectivity to the borders of neighbouring countries, including Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland.

Broadband Infraco has also made a significant investment as an anchor party in the new West Africa Cable System (WACS), an undersea cable that will link countries in southern Africa, western Africa and Europe with 5.12 terabits per second of international bandwidth capacity. The cable is scheduled for completion in the third quarter 2011.

The state-owned enterprise was established by the Department of Public Enterprises in 2006 under a statutory mandate to increase availability and affordability of access to electronic communications through the provision of both electronic communication network services and electronic communication services.

The department owns 76% of the company, with the remaining 24% being held by another state-owned institution, the Industrial Development Corporation.

SAinfo reporter

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