FibreCo Telecommunications, a joint venture between Cell C, Convergence Partners and Internet Solutions, will invest R5-billion in a nationwide open-access fibre optic network. It has awarded the contract to build the network to China’s ZTE.

FibreCo’s objective is to facilitate affordable and reliable high-speed Internet access for South African citizens and businesses.

In addition, the initial phase of FibreCo’s development will result in the creation of 2 300 direct and indirect job opportunities. FibreCo will also facilitate the training of at least 100 fibre optic technicians, to be certified under the internationally recognised Fibre Optic Association, who will be involved during construction and maintenance of the network in all provinces along its route.

FibreCo will also make heavily subsidised fibre capacity available to academic and research institutions, enabling greater innovation in the use of information and technology.

When completed, the national network will cover 12 000 km. Phase One involves linking up Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban as well as the East and West coast submarine cable landing stations.

Andile Ngcaba, chairman of FibreCo, comments: “This landmark investment will provide affordable, reliable and fast Internet access to ordinary South Africans.”

ZTE, which has been contracted to do the network construction and to supply technology equipment, is China’s largest publicly-listed global provider of telecommunications equipment and network solutions.

Work on the initial leg of Phase One is already underway, and will comprise a 1 900km link between Johannesburg and Cape Town via the Free State and Eastern Cape valued at R1-billion.

FibreCo has signed capacity purchase agreements with its first three clients for the Johannesburg-Cape Town route – namely BT, Cell C and Internet Solutions – allowing them ownership of fibre infrastructure and the ability to build bespoke optical transmission networks.

Arif Hussain, CEO of FibreCo, comments: “We are delighted to welcome BT, a client with a truly global brand, to the FibreCo network alongside Cell C and Internet Solutions, who have been valued partners since inception. On the strength of these contracts, coupled with the financial backing of our shareholders, we have secured the necessary funding”.

Shi Song, CEO of ZTE South Africa, says: “ZTE is pleased to be associated with such an exciting venture as the FibreCo project, which will change the face of Internet access in South Africa. It also constitutes another incredible opportunity for ZTE to reinforce its long-term commitment to South Africa and its economic development.”

Keith Matthews, GM of BT Sub-Saharan Africa, says: “Our customers in South Africa will benefit from our access to FibreCo’s infrastructure through increased performance and an optimised cost base. The new network will allow us to offer to our regional and global customers improved local access to BT Global Services’ portfolio of innovative products and services. This project is also a step in the right direction on the way to a more level playing field in the South African telecommunications market.”