Government needs to remove the bureaucratic bottlenecks to building network infrastructure in South Africa, CEO of Dimension Data Middle-East and Africa, Derek Wilcocks told attendees of SATNAC 2012 on Monday (3 September 2012).
He said that although Africa is a wireless continent, there is an important role for fibre optic infrastructure.
“If those wireless base stations are using satellite backhaul we’re not going to move to 3G or 4G in a hurry,” Wilcocks said. “I think that’s one of the greatest challenges we have in Africa.”
However, Wilcocks said that in being involved in building a national fibre network they’ve seen a significant percentage of the cost in building a network is really just in managing all the local areas and their different applications, rules, and regulations.
Certain things are owned by SANRAL, Wilcocks said, while other things belong to the metro, and others are owned by the provinces; and each entity has its own rules, regulations, and processes.
“It can easily take you two years just to gather all the licenses that you need to build a network from here [George] to Cape Town,” Wilcocks said.
Tasks such as applications for water use licenses and environmental impact assessments need to be standardised and streamlined by government, Wilcocks said.
He said that open access backhaul networks are the future for Africa where the competitive advantage doesn’t lie with the owner of the fibre in the ground.
“We need to find ways for the public and private sector to work together to build these open access networks,” Wilcocks said. “It doesn’t make sense for four different mobile and one fixed-line operator to be building fibre networks on the same stretch of national road.”
Wilcocks went on to say that regulations should be put in place to force industry to build these open access networks rather than letting every individual operator build its own backbone network.
“I think a lot of money is being wasted across Africa doing this,” Wilcocks said.