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City planning broadband network

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City planning broadband network

by Martin Pollack
22 Jun 2007
City of Cape Town
City of Cape Town

The City of Cape Town is considering a municipal optic fibre infrastructure, which will provide a massive boost to the local economy, as well as drastically reducing the City's communications costs.

The broadband network was first proposed last year, and a committee has now been set up to look into the project. The aim is to have the network ready by 2009, in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

The network is expected to cost about R400-million, which will be offset by the creation of an estimated 95 000 jobs, a contribution of R4-billion to the local economy, and cheaper telecommunications costs.

The City proposes laying 360km of fibre optic cables, which will first be used by the City administration to link its own key buildings and sites to be used for 2010, and then expand to other sites. It will also manage this network as public infrastructure for use by private telecommunications companies.

This will create a metropolitan area network that will provide high bandwidth connectivity between various City facilities, and also extend services to underserved communities.

Making the network available on an "open access" basis will prevent monopolisation of the infrastructure, and promote competition between private companies, which will in turn lead to lower prices and a "significant stimulus to the local economy", the report says.

Potential customers who will purchase use of the infrastructure have already been identified, and include Neotel (the second network operator); cellular companies; internet service providers; cable TV operators currently being licensed, and large corporate. Potential competitors include Telkom and Neotel (which has already laid some of its own fibre network in Cape Town but may co-operate with the City).

The City had considered a wireless network but found the growing availability of wireless networks increased the need for a fibre optic network, not negated it. Wireless networks were found to be lack the capacity of fibre networks, are prone to interference, and could present security risks.

The network will also work with the Smart Cape Access Network project, which aims to connect city facilities and give greater access to the internet for all citizens.

The project's strategic intent supports integrated human settlement; economic growth and job creation; access and mobility; building strong communities; equitable and effective service delivery and sustainable development, according to the report.

Stockholm was given as a case study in the report. The Swedish city established an independent public utility in 1994 to invest in a fibre infrastructure, which has since resulted in the city having 5 600km of optic fibre cable and 480 customers. The utility is also profitable and expanding. This network has been credited with establishing Stockholm as an IT capital, and has contributed to the city's economic growth.

The plan to make Cape Town a "connected city" was part of the public participation process for the City's Integrated Development Plan (IDP), and therefore consultations with the public are not needed.

Nirvesh Sooful of the City's Information Systems & Technology directorate says a request for information has gone out to get a better sense of the costs involved in laying the network. This has been estimated at R865 per metre, or R311-million in total, and up to 80 percent of this is cost is expected to relate to the civil works needed to lay the infrastructure.

Sooful added that a UCT economist has been commissioned to do an economic impact assessment in order to provide a better idea of the economic impact.

"We are finalising the business plan and waiting for all the information to come in," he said.

Council has been asked to consider approving initial funding of R59.6-million to support the construction planning process and initial construction costs.

"The next big issue is to see if we get the funding. We want to start in the new financial year, from July onwards, if we are going to meet our deadline to have the network up and running by 2009," Sooful said.

According to Demetri Qually, who is chairing the sub-committee set up to look into the network, "we are moving into the next phase, people are showing interest, and it's looking good".

Author:Martin Pollack
Inserted on 22 June 2007

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