THERE is a lot of positive activity going on with the various metropolitan fibre networks that are being built across the country, although connecting businesses to it is still a challenge.
Dark Fibre Africa has completed 7,500km of trenches and ducting in metropolitan areas and secondary towns, which can accommodate up to 20 cables in each trench.
“We have covered the whole of Gauteng, from Vereeniging in the south to Ga-Rankuwa in the north and from Heidelberg in the east to Krugersdorp in the west,” says Gustav Smit, CEO of Dark Fibre Africa.
Each of the 72 strands in a fibre cable can carry between one gigabyte and 1.4 terabytes of data, depending on the equipment installed at either end, which is a lot of capacity.
“We put the fibre cable in depending on the demand.”
Mr Smit says about 120,000 business premises are in close proximity to Dark Fibre Africa’s fibre points of presence (PoPs), not including business parks.
“All the major ISPs have connected their core networks to our fibre infrastructure.”
He says one of the hindrances to progress is getting landlords’ approval to connect fibre to their buildings. They often do not understand that providing high-speed connectivity in a building is as important as providing water and electricity, says Mr Smit.
“It provides them with a means of differentiating themselves in the market.”
Dark Fibre Africa also has a fibre link that runs from Durban to the undersea cable landing station in Mtunzini that has been operational for nearly three years.
Link Africa has installed a 500km fibre mesh network in the Durban area, both in trenches in the ground and in the underground sewers and stormwater drains.
CEO Rikus Matthyser says this includes connecting up underserviced areas within the municipal area of eThekwini such as Tongaat, Verulam, Phoenix, KwaMashu and Kwa-Dabeka.
“In the longer term we are planning to install similar networks in 24 cities and towns throughout South Africa.”
He says Link Africa is aiming to install more than 1,000km of new fibre across the country this year.
The company’s Durban initiatives include providing links from Umhlanga to the city centre for MTN, to support 3G and 4G services.
It has started to link 225 of eThekwini municipality’s buildings to its fibre network, and it is in the final stages of signing up other mobile operators and service providers to use its infrastructure.
Other initiatives on the cards for the near future include a fibre network in Nelson Mandela Bay municipality in Port Elizabeth.
He says the company is also planning to start installing fibre in Gauteng and Cape Town by the end of the year.
The full potential of the abundance of national and metropolitan fibre infrastructure being built across South Africa and that of the vast capacity of the undersea cables cannot be realised if there is no way of connecting businesses to it with fibre.
One company taking the opportunity to fill this gap in the market is Conduct, which is connecting up entire high density business precincts with fibre, mainly in Gauteng.
Telecommunication service providers and ISPs can then light up the fibre and provide services on top of it.
Richard Came, a director of the company, says with a lot of core networks in place the timing was right to build last mile fibre links to meet the expectations of businesses to support bandwidth intensive applications like video and cloud services.
“We have connected up 14 precincts in business districts in Gauteng and Claremont, Cape Town so far with fibre and are in the process of completing another 40.”
Mr Came says there has been a good take-up from ISPs and telecommunications service providers connecting their customers to the fibre. “We research the businesses first to see if they are interested in having a fibre connection.”
The more businesses that buy into having a fibre connection the more it will stimulate demand as they start talking about it.
He says Conduct would be happy if more players would start building last mile fibre infrastructure, because the competition would help to stimulate market demand.