Benefits for Africa in the pipeline – Telkom

May 21, 2012 • Mobile and Telecoms, Top Stories

Perhaps the request for comment about where they stand with the general public is unfair, and senior management from Telkom is understandably reluctant to speculate.


Johan Meyer, Executive for Global Capacity Business, Telkom. (Image: Telkom)

Rather, they point to the critical role the company has played in helping to roll-out the West Africa Cable System (WACS) in early May, the culmination of four years of intensive work and touted as a significant breakthrough in the advancement of connectivity throughout Africa.

The introduction of WACS into Telkom’s undersea cable portfolio will complete the Company’s second ring of capacity around the African continent. The S3WS, EASSy and SMW3 cables already form a ring around Africa. With the introduction of WACS together with EASSy and EIG, a high capacity ring between SA and Europe has now been formed.

Designed to support present and future Internet, e-commerce, data, video and voice services, the capacity of the entire system is 5.12 terabits per second (Tbps). The system makes use of dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) technology, which enables the transport of multiple wavelengths over a single fibre pair, as well as multiplication of capacity.

Speaking from the South Tower of the company’s corporate offices in the City of Tshwane CBD, Johan Meyer, Executive for Global Capacity Business, likened the official launch of WACS to the arrival of a new child. It took hard work, and at times was a difficult process, but the end result is worth every effort.

The company was involved from the very beginning says Meyer, from the time the two original concepts – upon which the final WACS model was based, were combined. The company operates submarine cable gateways at Mtunzini, Melkbosstrand and Yzerfontein which provides the country with three international fibre gateways to minimise the risk of complete isolation in the event of a natural disaster or cable outage.

“When the project started it was the SAT-4 concept proposed by Telkom and the AWCC intra-co driven project, and the two concepts were brought together into the WACS cable system. From that perspective, Telkom basically led the original team in terms of the development of the project till we brought it into the contracting and, of course, the financial close,” says Meyer.

Telkom also introduced and contributed the management committee chairperson for at least the first year and the procurement group co-chair…as well as cable station workgroup and the central billing parties, amongst other levels of leadership representation across the wider project.

“As Telkom, I believe the people in my team and the rest of the Telkom team committed themselves for four years. And so also for the other companies that participated. From that perspective it is nice to come to the point where we can say ‘we have now delivered’ and what we have done is actually future-proofed the demand for capacity in SA, for Telkom customers, and for the West African community for at least the next decade, maybe,” Meyer adds.

Network Transformation Initiative

Another possible reason for the positive energy reverberating round the company could be that the Network Transformation initiative, announced last year, is making steady progress. There is a real belief that the company is moving closer to its reaching its target of an all-IP network designed to enable fixed-mobile convergence and truly differentiated high-speed broadband.

Senior management at the company explained the intention behind the revamp of its access network is to enable a truly differentiated broadband capability.

“We are happy to report major traction against these plans,” said Bashier Sallie, Telkom’s Managing Director of Wholesale and Networks. “The journey to a future-proof network is based on a comprehensive set of network interventions. We have commenced the last, and arguably the most challenging, of these interventions – a revamp of our access network.”

“We will take our fibre deeper into the network, thanks to new fibre capabilities, and will smartly leverage a mix of access technologies, namely very high speed DSL technology (VDSL2) in a fibre-to-the-curb configuration and passive optic fibre (PON) configuration directly to the home or business premises. Given the mix of customer broadband needs, a dispersed customer base and vast geography in SA, Telkom has chosen FTTx as our solution to ensure commercial and service sustainability,” he continued.

Empowering the consumer

What does this mean for the consumer? According to Meyer, the launch of WACS and move from two diverse gateways in the country to three completely diverse international gateways for submarine cables ushers in a number of benefits – for Telkom customers and the country as a whole.

“In the last decade or two there have actually been a lot of events where multiple cable failures occurred, for example earthquakes in the Philippines which took out five or six cable systems and actually broke in thirty different places. It took months to repair that, A more recent example was in the Red Sea that we had three cables taken out by a ship dragging anchor. Even though you may have two or three cables landing, if those cables are taken out, you lose the entire landing,” says Meyer.

The infrastructure and cable connectivity from the landing stations in South Africa and ownership of these stations means secure connectivity between the country and Europe. It is in Europe where the first tier ISPs are located and direct, reliable connectivity to this region means that it is not necessary to route traffic via Asia or the Americas elsewhere to reach the destination Meyer explains.

Connection to the world network via three diverse routes means if a customer has contracted to Telkom for service, should any of the routes go down, there will be no impact on service. The promise of seamless, redundant and diversified capability can be delivered to customers that have critical international applications.

From a consumer, ordinary household point of view, this connectivity between continents will ensure higher speeds for download and improved capacity – both of which bode well for users in South Africa and Africa hoping to derive more value from their Internet experiences and leverage off multimedia, social media and more.

Chris Tredger

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