An open access dark fibre infrastructure, linking the undersea cables landing at Mtunzini to Gauteng and Durban, has been completed.
The project will transform the economics of bringing high capacity bandwidth to South Africa’s major economic hubs, says Gustav Smit, CEO of Dark Fibre Africa (DFA).
DFA was established by Community Investment Ventures (CIV) and Venfin.
Smit says the sharing of the most expensive elements of a telecommunications network – such as trenches, ducts and manholes – among multiple customers enables DFA to deliver fast fibre connections at a fraction of the price for which operators could build their own networks.
DFA completed the route in 14 months.
“We already have two customers, Seacom and Vodacom, who have signed up on this route and are at an advanced stage of negotiations with several others. The Durban to Mtunzini link has been operational for over a year now and has five customers, including Telkom, Tenet, Broadband Infraco, MTN and Vodacom.”
A number of undersea cables have reached South Africa in the last year or so, with more expected soon. In addition, major metros have seen an explosion in the deployment of high speed fibre optic cable and the deployment of new high speed wireless networks by mobile operators.
Despite this, the perception of increasingly cynical business and individual consumers is that they have not witnessed any material change in the typical speed and cost of the internet connectivity offered by their service providers.
A major reason for this is the bottleneck that has existed in the availability of high speed terrestrial capacity between undersea landing stations and major metropolitan areas, says Smit.
He says DFA has removed the last fundamental barrier preventing its customers, South Africa’s major telecommunications operators and Internet service providers (ISPs), from delivering affordable high speed bandwidth to their customers.
Dr Duncan Martin of Tenet, which operates the South African National Research Network (SANReN) – one of DFA’s first customers on the Mtunzini link – provides some indication of the speed and cost benefits that South Africa will derive from this connection.
“Inbound international traffic into the SANReN network has increased from 214Mbps to 2,25Gbps since DFA installed our link in record time,” he says. “The international satellite tracking station at Hartebeeshoek is now able to upload data that previously had to be sent via courier to Amsterdam, in real time at a speed of 1Gbps. New open access telecommunications connections from the likes of DFA and Seacom have resulted in SANReN’s prices tumbling from a cost of R53 000 to R1 100 per megabyte per month today.
“Apart from connecting South Africa to the global internet, the route will also provide connectivity to smaller towns en route including Stanger, Empangeni, Richards Bay, Ermelo, Piet Retief, Middelburg and eMalahleni (Witbank).The route will also provide improved connectivity for mobile operators whose infrastructure is increasingly burdened by exponential growth in data traffic. “
DFA has also commenced construction of a 160km route to link Cape Town to Yzerfontein where the WACS cable landed in April. This route will be complete by the time the WACS cable is ready for commissioning early next year. The completion of the Yzerfontein link will mean that the four biggest metros in South Africa will all have high speed international connectivity and high speed, open access fibre optic distribution networks. DFA has already built in excess of 2 600km of fibre optic infrastructure in these metros.