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Tshwane takes up the telecoms challenge

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There is a profound change taking place in the telecommunications market, and operators that don’t change could lose out. New technologies, such as WiFi, GSM-SIP and VoIP, make access to telecommunications more affordable and have precipitated the change the market is seeing now. 

This is according to Charles Kuun, manager: Tshwane Global Digital Hub Programme in the City of Tshwane, who points out that local governments face a number of challenges.
Among these are a need to make high-speed Internet access available and affordable, to lower the cost of government operations, to enhance safety and security, to promote local economic competitiveness, and to improve citizens’ quality of life.
“The Tshwane response is the Tshwane Global Digital Hub Programme, formed to address these challenges via ICT,” says Kuun.
“Digital hubs are the necessary cornerstones of smart digital cities,” he adds.
“They are based on sound and pervasive broadband ICT infrastructures which are leveraged to modernise cities and attract investment.”
Kuun says the only way to achieve this goal is through a metropolitan area network (MAN) designed to connect through traffic aggregation centres.
The City of Tshwane has used municipal buildings and electricity substations are the traffic aggregation centres, connected with optical fibre, and functioning as carriers for control signal and corporate ICT business traffic.
A fibre-based SDH network covers 2 400 square kilometres of the Tshwane municipal area, covering 260 nodes. The fibre network connects to copper at the substation nodes, which also feature antennae for wireless connectivity.
“We have chosen to build an open access network, accessible by the user community, rather than an operator-centric network.
“We decided on a Municipal Open Access Network to provide true broadband capacity to serve the local geographic community of Tshwane.
“Essentially, this is a public utility like water or electricity, but for the information society.
“Importantly, it facilitates entry by removing the high fixed costs associated with the need to deploy them.
“And, most important, it has a corporate governance structure that give importance to serving the common good and provides wholesale access services.”
The Tshwane network can provide services to communities via wireless meshed LAN on a broadband or broadband power line infrastructure.
Kuun explains that the function of the MAN is to enable all service providers to deliver a wide variety of services to the community, these services being independent of the access technologies.
The role of the network will be to manage customer access and use of services without limiting the types of applications that can be deployed.
It will also provide authentication and policy execution.
An Exchange Management system switches traffic between the Tshwane MAN and ISPs.
Initially, the network will be used to connect schools and hospitals and also to offer connectivity to small offices, SMEs and SMMEs.
The project also ensures that the city of broadband-enabled well ahead of 2010.
The network officially went live last month and, already, a number of ISPs have requested access, while an SMME ISP from Shoshanguve is already online and offering services to the community.