Arif Hussain, chief executive officer (CEO) of FibreCo, told delegates at the Broadband Summit, in Johannesburg, yesterday that despite the country’s economic activity currently being centralised in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, upcoming infrastructural developments will fuel activity in other areas of the country, thus operators should focus on rolling out broadband more widely across South Africa.
“All is well and good for now, we [in Gauteng, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal] are getting broadband, but what about the rest of the country?” asked Hussain.
“The bottom line is that there are many people [in South Africa] living in places which are very poorly connected.”
This, he says, is particularly significant when a number of impending projects are considered.
For example, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project is to be located in the Karoo region of the country, which currently suffers very poor connectivity, but is a project that will fuel activity in the area and is already garnering substantial national and international interest.
Other important developments include the rise in renewable energy projects, which Hussain says will primarily be located in coastal regions, to take advantage of South Africa’s extensive hydro and wind resources (among others).
Disaster recovery centres will also be developed, which Hussain suggests will be located near to government or official quarters - such as in Bloemfontein.
All of these upcoming developments will spread the activity of the country across hitherto unconnected territories- away from the three centres of activity currently obvious.
In addition, the future of the nation - the youth - are located across the span of the country. Hussain highlighted the significant numbers of university students located in the Free State, Limpopo, and Mpumalanga.
These students will build the country and the economy over the coming period, and Hussain argues that the question needs to be asked as to what their broadband experiences will be, under the current state of penetration.
For these reasons and others, FibreCo is working on rolling out terrestrial fibre connections across the country, mostly along national roads, in a bid to construct a fibre “backbone”, which connects other major towns in South Africa, while also providing broadband access points for a number of rural locations along the fibre’s route.
On one route the company is working on, connecting Johannesburg to East London, there are between 60 and 80 rural access points along the route, substantially improving rural connectivity options.
Since work began on this route in April 2012, the company has trenched more than 1,500 kilometres, and is readying to blow and test the fibre.
“With the fibre backbone in place, you will see a very different landscape,” says Hussain.
However, he cautioned that unless access delivery networks are improved quickly, people will not see the benefit of the new infrastructure.