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R1,5bn fibre network to connect SA

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Comsol Fibre Connect, South Africa’s first nationwide open access high-speed carrier grade data network, is set to connect enterprises in both major metros and small towns.

The network has been launched by Comsol, backed by Convergence Partners, Nedbank Private Equity and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) as investment partners. The Private Equity business of Nedbank Corporate and Investment Banking (NCIB) will become a 25% shareholder in Comsol.

Comsol Fibre Connect offers the best of the fibre and wireless worlds, allowing telcos, carriers and service providers to connect their customers with speeds from 2Mbps up to 1Gbps in just six working days.

The combination of a fibre optic backbone with a high-speed, fully licensed wireless infrastructure provides near-blanket coverage of metros, cities and district councils.

The key advantage of Comsol Fibre Connect is that customers are guaranteed connectivity of a high capacity, uncontended product, underpinned by a carrier grade service level agreement.

The first elements of the network have already been rolled out and are operational, with the bulk of the rollout anticipated to be concluded by the end of the year.

The initial funding, which equates to over R500-million, be provided by Convergence Partners, Nedbank Private Equity and the IDC. In addition to the funding raised for the initial rollout, Comsol expects to reinvest and spend a further R1-billion on existing fibre infrastructure and leased fibre, creating a massive opportunity for existing fibre players in the market.

“With the advent of big data, Internet of Things and cloud-based business applications and the increasing need for companies to use high-speed connectivity, the requirement for high-speed internet access is growing across businesses of all sizes and in all sectors. Whether an office in a CBD, a platinum mine in an outlying area, or a retail branch in a small town, a robust fast, efficient network is essential to growing and maintaining business operations,” says Iain Stevenson, CEO of Comsol.

He adds that despite the investments made into fibre networks, they are not yet far-reaching enough, take too long to deploy and are extremely expensive for the provider to build everywhere.

Comsol Fibre Connect will not only allow companies to access the speeds and quality of fibre connectivity in much faster deployment times at a lower cost, but it also offers true coverage for the majority of businesses across the country – even those with branches in outlying areas.

“For many years, wireless and other technologies were associated with being contended and unstable. Now, with advances in new milimetre wave spectrum technologies and the abundance of fibre backbone available and capillary network, businesses have the means to tap into a mixed medium, fully licensed capacity that enjoys the same quality, speed and reliability that, to date, fibre-only solutions could previously deliver,” says Andile Ngcaba, chairman of Convergence Partners.

Natasha Haslam of the IDC adds: “It fits perfectly in to aiding our strategy of increasing penetration of high-speed connectivity and reducing costs through infrastructure sharing. It is hoped that this network will enhance communications for businesses in underserviced areas and aid in narrowing the digital divide.”

In addition to its extensive coverage in the major metros, cities and district councils, Comsol will connect over 200 towns and cities across the country via Comsol Fibre Connect. Deployment in outlying areas has begun, with majority of towns to be connected by December this year.

“We are pleased to be working alongside the experienced management team of Comsol and co-investors Convergence Partners, a longstanding partner of the Nedbank Group. We are excited about Comsol’s prospects and the rollout of Comsol Fibre Connect, particularly of the ability for their network to reach previously inaccessible areas,” says Clive Howell, head of Nedbank Private Equity.