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SA gears for 2010 infrastructure

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South Africa’s major ICT infrastructure providers are gearing up to ensure sufficient bandwidth provisioning for the broadcast demands of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, as well as for the 300 000-plus international visitors expected to flock to local shores to witness the event. 

With an expected investment by government and local World Cup partners of up to R5-billion, ICT put in place for the World Cup will extend beyond 2010, potentially helping to bridge South Africa’s digital divide.
This was a message at the recent ICT Journalist Media Forum, hosted by the Link Centre and Telkom, where key players tackled ICT investment for 2010, its benefits and legacy for South Africa’s ICT development.
World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck says World Cup ICT requirements extend far beyond infrastructure and facilities – but must address all users, not just broadcasters.
With 300 00 visitors expected to descend on South Africa in one month, sufficient bandwidth must be available for them to communicate.
Meeting the high expectation of these mobile users poses an exciting challenge for industry players, he says.
Goldstuck adds that, within 18 months, the South African ICT environment would be unrecognisable due to the positive impacts of optic fibre cable being laid, and the SAT3/WASC/SAFE international cable system, being felt.
Telkom is among the local companies appointed as an ICT partner for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, having signed as a National Supporter for the world’s biggest soccer showpiece earlier this month.
Telkom’s technology will provide the fixed-line telecommunications backbone for supporting the broadcast of the action to the world. In essence, Telkom will enable the interconnection of important event venues, including the ten FIFA World Cup stadiums, broadcast compounds, media centres, the International Broadcast Centre (IBC) and FIFA headquarter locations.
Gauteng MEC of Finance Paul Mashatile emphasises that the province is looking at ICT beyond 2010. One of the major challenges it is already addressing is meeting broadband demand and reducing the cost of doing business in Gauteng.
Mashatile adds that other major projects such as Gautrain allowed for a reduction in costs as it was planned that optic fibre cables would run in the underground section between Park Station and Marlboro.
Botlenyana Mokhele of the Department of Communications (DOC) says the event provides an opportunity for the government to accelerate the development of robust, reliable and affordable ICT for 2010.
Plans already in place for 2010, she says, include cabinet approval for the development of the second Sentech Teleport which will serve as satellite backup for the fibre capacity provided. Moves planned to ensure international connectivity include the Nepad Broadcast Cable network which will connect South Africa with east African countries and Europe.  
Local Organising Committee (LOC) technology manager, Zakes Mnisi, says the International Broadcast Centre will serve as the central hub for all broadcasting facilities as the point of delivery of multi-lateral and unilateral signals to broadcasters.  The 30 000-square metre facilities would accommodate up to 100 broadcasters from at least 50 countries, have around 1000 people on the premises 24/7 and would require more than 500 telephone lines.
The forum also heard that other long term benefits of 2010 ICT include high-definition television (HDTV). Acting Chief Technology Officer for the SABC, Nic Bonthuys says that by 2009 the SABC will have six high-definition Outside Broadcast Units.
The SABC, as the official broadcaster, will be responsible for carrying all unilateral signals for its own local coverage and for international broadcasts from the stadiums to the IBC, which will be the gateway to local and international video and audio circuits.
The SABC is also investing in digital terrestrial transmissions which will be rolled out from November 2008. Digital will, however, run in parallel with analogue until the latter mode of transmission is switched off in 2011.