How WIOCC is keeping South Africa connected – Q&A with Darren Bedford

The West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC) is building Africa’s first truly hyperscale network infrastructure, which will give it the ability to deliver high-end capacity and makes it a leading partner for OTTs, content providers, telcos, and ISPs in Africa.

This is according to WIOCC Chief Development Officer Darren Bedford, who told MyBroadband that the COVID-19 pandemic has seen demand for wholesale broadband capacity skyrocket and explained what this means for WIOCC’s future plans.

WIOCC uses over 150,000km of undersea cables and over 75,000km of terrestrial fibre to provide high-speed, affordable connectivity to over 1,000 locations across Africa – and Bedford provides insight into the company’s plans in the Q&A below.

  • Have you seen an increase in demand for wholesale broadband capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown? How does this compare to the growth you were seeing beforehand?

We’ve seen continuous growth in demand for international connectivity from South Africa ever since we started offering our wholesale services more than 10 years ago.

However, the period since the onset of COVID-19 has seen a very large increase in that demand, including multiple 100Gbps national and international requirements, driven by the needs of the domestic market in South Africa, international telcos and large content providers.

  • How have the changes you made affected local telcos, content providers, and ISPs?

Serving the needs of our client community – delivering capacity increments quickly and efficiently, making more routes available, and offering greater contract flexibility – has increased bandwidth availability across the country for our clients, given them the ability to deliver more resilient services to their customers and improve their cashflow management.

  • Do you expect this growth in broadband adoption and data usage to continue, and what repercussions does this have for companies which provide and purchase wholesale connectivity?

It appears unlikely that the migration from office-based to home-based working will be completely reversed.

The two main barriers – the need for technology investment and employee productivity concerns – have largely been mitigated as a result of the pandemic.

Going forward, we believe the response to the pandemic will reinforce the need for service providers to consider scalability and flexibility capabilities in choosing their wholesale connectivity partner.

  • Have you needed to expand your physical infrastructure following the increased Internet usage due to the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa?

The expansion of our national network to many more locations country-wide and 16Tbps-ready technology just happened to coincide with the arrival of COVID-19, rather than the pandemic driving our plans.

With a hyperscale domestic network in place, we’re very well-positioned to meet the ongoing needs of our client base.

Our policy of strategic hyperscale investment in subsea infrastructure made us one of very few providers able to meet the international capacity demands of the largest players during this period.

We have continued to offer our clients rapid turn-up of capacity upgrades throughout the pandemic, with none of the delays associated with having to procure extra inventory to meet client demand.

  • How have the events of the recent year affected your infrastructure expansion strategy going forward?

We have always invested strategically, building hyperscale infrastructure between key business locations to meet the ongoing needs of our wholesale clients.

Recent events have once again reinforced the importance of making strategic – rather than tactical – infrastructure investment decisions; meaning, for us, investing at scale in the infrastructure our clients need, both now and into the future.

Now read: “Telkom didn’t pay me again, so I turned off their cellphone tower”

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How WIOCC is keeping South Africa connected – Q&A with Darren Bedford