The City of Johannesburg (CoJ) has awarded a three-year, multi-billion rand deal to Ericsson South Africa to build, operate and transfer a municipal broadband network for the city – which will make Johannesburg the first truly enabled digital city in the country.
A consortium which will operate the network for the city will be formed and Centratel company Masakhe Telecommunications will make up part of this entity.
The proposed infrastructure and core network layout, based on fibre optic technology will cover all areas of the CoJ and will increase the penetration of broadband information and communication technology (ICT) access in under serviced areas such as Diepsloot and Alexandra, thereby reducing the digital divide that still exists in Johannesburg today.
The project benefits are numerous. The CoJ will be able to reduce the cost of access to ICT services to the general public and to companies operating within the city. All potential wholesale customers will have equal access to the cheap infrastructure offered by the network.
Initial deployments will be based on current usage statistics and any priority sites deemed by the CoJ. Thereafter bandwidth usage will be monitored and will be increased as needed and on request from the City of Johannesburg. Bandwidth at any given point in the network will be available at speeds from 2Mbps to 10Gbps.
It is believed the fibre core infrastructure will also satisfy the increased demand for bandwidth within the internal CoJ network enabling the city to provide e-services, enhance internal processes and enable work-from-home capabilities for some of its employees.
The network will also enable Internet service providers (ISPs), value added networks (VANs) and licensed telecommunication operators to offer true broadband access services.
Ericsson will ensure that the fibre core network is continually expanded according to demand and kept up to date in terms of the market demand for the latest available technology while Masakhe will be responsible for the customer facing responsibilities of the project. This entails billing, revenue collection and the establishment and operations of a contact centre to respond to enquiries.
"Broadband services are recognised as one of the most critical components of development and improvement of a citizen's quality of life. This project will significantly change the everyday life of Johannesburg's population," says CoJ's Jason Ngobeni, executive director of economic development.
"Ericsson globally has been involved in numerous digital city network deployments that have proven successful both in terms of being financially sustainable and achieving socio economic objectives. We believe Johannesburg will reap the same benefits," saya Jonas Stringberg, Ericsson president, market unit sub-Saharan Africa.
Examples of such successes include a project in Sweden where the retail price for a 100Mbps Internet connection has dropped to what customers previously paid for a 2Mbps ADSL based Internet connection and an Amsterdam network where customers now receive a 30Mbps connection for the same price as an ADSL connection.
"This network will solidify Johannesburg's image as an investment friendly city with a world class ICT infrastructure that is bound to stimulate job growth and therefore boost the economy. Moreover this network will be financially sustainable in that it will pay for itself and for future expansion projects," says Michael Aitken, MD of Masakhe Telecommunications.