Connectivity is essential in this dynamic, online society. Fibre remains one of the top solutions to providing a seamless connection that allows online access to information and communication. Faster, stable and more reliable than data-driven connections, fibre is the answer to many people’s connectivity woes.
Fibre-to-the-Business (FTTB) is gaining traction in South Africa, with over 150,000km of Fibre Internet network infrastructure laid out nationally, and expanding daily. The South African government plans to have fibre cables in place throughout the country by 2020, with an aim to assist the country with better connectivity.
Rufus Andrew, Corning International Business Development Director for Africa, spoke on how Fibre-to-the-Home (FTTH) and FTTB is transforming the way internet is used in Africa. He also touches on the South Africa Connect policy and how fibre pertains to that.
How is fibre changing the way the internet is used in South Africa?
South Africa is experiencing a boom in internet access with online users estimated to have reached 30 million in 2017, according to internet World stats. A majority of South Africans connect to the internet using mobile technologies and there is room to use fibre access for high bandwidth services, at an affordable rate.
Fibre optic cables play a big role in providing high-performance data networking and a much better way of communicating with other people. They come with several advantages that make it significant in everyday living, as opposed to traditional copper cabling.
Several Over-The -Top (OTT) services and applications, especially video-based Services, have been introduced recently into the South African market which require higher bandwidth, high speed, robust internet connections. Fibre based networks are enabling end user access to these Services and Applications. Furthermore, businesses are able to digitise and virtualise several of their processed, applications and Services due to the reliability and speeds offered by fibre networks.
We are seeing an uptake on household and business fibre in South Africa. The ICASA: The state of the ICT sector in South Africa report shows that fibre-to-the-home/building, Internet subscriptions and other fixed (wired) broadband subscriptions saw a substantial increase of 523.9% and 379.2% in 2017, respectively. The number of Fibre-to-the-home/building Internet subscriptions is estimated to be about 280,097.
Fibre is being used as the backhaul locally, we are starting to see communities that have mobile access starting to consume more high quality multimedia because of the strong fibre backhaul. So, fibre is not only bridging the digital divide but also bridging the generation gap, as people are able to communicate and connect from rural places to business and suburban areas.
How does fibre roll-out relate to the South Africa Connect policy?
There are a number of ways that increased fibre rollout can help achieve the policy to catalyse broadband connectivity in South Africa.
Fibre has to form an integral part of the network deployments in order to deliver the low latency, high-speed performance required by the emerging services and applications. Whether the access network to the consumer will be fixed or wireless, either way a significant amount of fibre will be required.
Fibre technologies currently offer the best way to quickly scale up the bandwidth and speed of networks based on user demand.
What are some of the challenges around fibre roll-out and how can they be overcome?
The most common challenge we see in fibre roll out is the time between infrastructure deployment and recognising the return on investment. When good proactive planning has not been done, the rollout is jeopardised because decisions are made based upon poor data. Often we see that plans do not properly consider the network architecture requirements or customer requirements which can hinder the investment.
Other issues with rolling out Outside Plant Networks especially with the speed of local government is issuing things like wayleaves and other approvals. There are also security concerns like robbery of services teams, doing the installations and maintenance.
A big challenge is finding enough skilled resources as the different players, rolling out fibre networks, are all competing for the same limited resource pool. This is starting to introduce quality issues in several of the deployments.
With that said, fibre solutions are highly flexible and future-ready, and allow forward-looking managers to build high-quality networks that support multiple in-building applications, including cellular, Wi-Fi, LAN, security, and other IP-based services. They allow for the creation of the powerful fourth utility that addresses today’s communications needs, while laying a foundation to easily handle disruption-free future connectivity that lasts the life of a building with no ripping and replacing of outgrown cabling required.
What are some of the latest innovations that Corning is bringing to the South African market?
At Corning, our growth is fuelled by a commitment to innovation. We succeed through sustained investment in research & development, a unique combination of material and process innovation, and close collaboration with customers to solve tough technology challenges.
With the rapid growth in data volumes across Africa, which require fixed/mobile convergence, our acquisition of 3M’s fibre-to-the-home business and high-bandwidth products will enhance the optical solutions we provide customers, while increasing deployment speed and network capability.
Among the product innovations currently happening at Corning, we have the following;
- Hardened OptiTap and OptiTip connectors, designed for use in the network access and drop cable portions of a preconnectorized network. Used alone or integrated into hardware products, these connectors make installations faster, easier, and less costly.
- MiniXtend HD cable with binderless FastAccess technology, Corning’s highest-density micro-cable, features Corning SMF-28 Ultra 200 fibre and delivers fibre counts up to 288. MiniXtend HD cable is up to 20 percent smaller than standard micro cables, addressing the need for virtually unlimited bandwidth capacity and relieving network duct congestion.
- The Clear Track Fibre Pathway, which enables gigabit broadband delivery via virtually invisible fibre infrastructure for inside residences as well as multi-dwelling unit hallway applications. Clear Track Fibre Pathways enable fast and easy installation with minimal disruption for tenants. There are no interior or exterior corner pieces or other visual disruptors, making the fibre installation aesthetically pleasing and barely noticeable.
The above solutions are designed for simplification and speed of deployment, especially homes connected, for the rollout of FTTX Networks in SA.