Telkom’s national fibre network has been added to the open source AfTerFibre map after one of its contributors wrote a plea to Telkom CEO Nombulelo “Pinky” Moholi to release the data to them.
Steve Song, founder of Village Telco and contributor to AfTerFibre, wrote in January this year (2012) that Telkom had declined their PAIA request for data on its terrestrial fibre network in South Africa.
In his plea to Moholi, Song wrote:
There is an opportunity with this terrestrial fibre map for African countries to show off a little, to demonstrate that they are the best connected country on the continent, that they are THE destination when it comes to companies thinking about setting up African points of presence.
Even without the fibre maps of Broadband Infraco, Neotel, or any of South Africa’s mobile operators (Vodacom, MTN, Cell C), South Africa certainly does look impressive against the rest of the continent with the addition of Telkom’s fibre map.
Fibre networks already included in the map are those of Dark Fibre Africa (including routes planned for future roll-outs), and FibreCo.
Asked about the operators whose fibre networks aren’t listed, Song said that they recently got hold of the state-owned Broadband Infraco’s map and would be adding it soon.
As far as co-operation from other operators are concerned, Song said they still “have a long way to go”. He added that in general there is far more reluctance to share than he expected.
“Some are great, like Liquid Telecom in Zimbabwe or Phase3 in Nigeria or DFA in South Africa, who publish their fibre maps as a matter of course,” Song said. “Others treat their maps like state secrets, often I think because they bundle sensitive and public data in the same resource and they can’t be bothered to separate it out.”
Song said that the best sources for AfTerFibre have been informal. “Access through official channels tends to be very slow,” Song said.
“I think I ought to set up a ‘mapileaks’ site so that people can contribute anonymously,” Song joked.
From JPG to KML with Google Earth
This means that some of the map sources provided as an image are not attributed, Song explained. Source data provided as an image are uploaded to Yahoo’s popular photo sharing site Flickr.
Song explained that most of the maps are traced from PNG or JPG images using Google Earth, which he said is great for the task.
Google Earth allows the traced map to be exported as Keyhole Markup Language (KML), which in turn is used to generate the map available at the AfTerFibre site.
Whoever provided the KML, whether they traced it from an image or “got it straight from horse’s mouth”, gets credited as the contributor on AfTerFibre, Song said.
Once the KML is generated (or acquired) it first has to be converted into something that can be displayed on a single map.
“Greg Mahlknecht [of Greg’s Cable Map fame] came up with a way of processing the KML and extracting meta data from it in a way that made it easy to aggregate sources and render it nicely on a single map,” Song said.
Information on the process, and on how to contribute to the map are available on ManyPossibilites.net, Song said.