On the 19th October 2009, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (‘ICASA’) awarded one of two requested licences to Broadband Infraco – the individual electronic communications network services (‘I-ECNS’) licence. This licence will allow Broadband Infraco to provide electronic communications network services to other licenced operators with the use of its own fibre optic network infrastructure. The network will be able to carry large quantities of broadband capacity between points-of-presence to all the major cities and towns in Southern Africa.
The state-owned enterprise was established under a statutory mandate to increase availability and affordability of access to electronic communications through the provision of both the electronic communication network services and electronic communication services.
With the award of the ECNS licence, Broadband Infraco intends 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 for expanding the reach and capacities of their own networks or resell on to their customers.
Licenced operators can buy multiple capacity increments of 155 megabits per second up to 10 gigabits per second. Broadband Infraco’s lowest capacity service translates into being able to stream about 20 high definition (HDTV) movies simultaneously.
Broadband Infraco, CEO Dave Smith noted, “In anticipation of receiving the I-ECNS licence, Broadband Infraco installed some 11 765 kms of fibre optic cable connecting Johannesburg, Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban and other large metropolitan centres including Bloemfontein, Kimberley, Port Elizabeth, East London, Nelspruit and Polokwane.”
The network also extends connectivity to the borders of South Africa’s neighbouring countries, namely Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland. The fibre optic cables are scalable up to hundreds of gigabits of data per second, depending on future growth.
Broadband Infraco has also made a significant investment as an anchor party in the new West Africa Cable System (WACS). The West Africa Cable System is a high capacity marine cable system that will link countries in Southern Africa, Western Africa and Europe, with 5.12 terabits per second of international bandwidth capacity and is scheduled for completion in the 3rd Quarter 2011. The West Africa Cable System represents a significant telecommunications infrastructure investment through the joint effort of a number of African and global operators and will provide more than ample capacity to serve the region’s international connectivity needs for many years into the future.
The licence award further benefits the South African ICT sector in that : –
– Licenced operators can leverage existing long distance infrastructure which will lower their investment required to support future growth in data and internet services
– Licenced operators can focus on their core business, such as metro and the last mile fibre optic networks and services
– Telecommunications service operators can offer improved redundancy and quality of services to customers due to the addition of an alternative long distance service provider
– Licenced operators can realise cost benefits through the aggregation of large volume of traffic, than what they could achieve independently
Under-serviced areas also stand to gain from having licensed operators with competitive cost structures providing connectivity to centres such as hospitals and e-schools. The intention is to uplift communities by enabling the provision of affordable internet and other data services to businesses and residents in these areas.
“The award of the individual electronic communications services (‘I-ECS’) licence from ICASA, is the remaining piece of the puzzle for Broadband Infraco to deliver entirely on all aspects of its statutory mandate in accordance with applicable legislation.” noted Smith. This includes the provision of the telecommunication mechanisms for projects of national interest that are being developed under the leadership of the Department of Science and Technology.
“The Square Kilometre Array (‘SKA’) telescope project is an example of projects of national interest, that we would like to get involved with”, offers Smith. The SKA has been described by project members as the world’s largest scientific instrument and South Africa is in the race against Australia to host the telescope. “For South Africa to compile a compelling bid, we need to be able to supply the project with several gigabits per second of national and international connectivity,“ says Smith, “and we will only be able to ensure affordable high capacity connectivity if awarded an ECS licence.”
“The successful execution of our entire mandate stands to improve the communications industry to the benefit of South Africa and many parts of Africa,” concluded Smith.