Western Cape Premier Helen Zille recently (17 February 2012) announced plans to connect every citizen in the Cape Town metropolitan area at network speeds in excess of 100Mbps, by 2020.
Jo-Ann Johnston, acting head for the Western Cape’s Department of Economic Development and Tourism, told MyBroadband that the details about the project are still being finalized.
Johnston explained that the plan has now received the go-ahead which means that they can start to evaluate technology options, business models and network requirements to achieve their telecoms goals in the province.
According to Johnston the current plans involve connecting all government premises via a fibre network, and then use this infrastructure to provide connectivity to communities.
Connecting residents to the network
Fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) is currently not on the cards for the Western Cape, but Johnston says that they are planning to connect some business premises (which fall within a few core sectors) to their fibre network.
Johnston says that the current plans are to use a fibre backbone to support the network, and then use wireless last mile access to provide broadband services to communities.
The exact wireless technologies which will be used are still being investigated. Johnson added that the cost of the technology and the lifespan which can be expected will play key roles in their decision.
The Western Cape will rely on Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to use the province’s open access network to provide broadband services to residents. Details about this plan are also still being finalized.
It is understood that the province will be negotiating bulk bandwidth deals for national and international bandwidth to drive down the cost of Internet access for government, the private sector and residential subscribers.
They are also in discussions with Broadband Infraco to use their network to boost services in the Western Cape.
Johnston highlighted that the 100Mbps connectivity speed promise should be seen as a target rather than a fixed value which will be achieved. “The 100Mbps speed is neither here nor there. It just gives us a target towards which we can work,” said Johnston.
The DA is planning to build the largest mesh network in the world as part of pilot projects in Khayelitsha, Mitchell’s Plain and Saldanha Bay. This network aims to provide affordable connectivity to all residents in these areas.
Johnston said that the tenders for network deployment will only be launched at a later stage.