CENTURION, Gauteng – 3 October 2008 – Fibre optic cables direct to the home will become a reality sooner rather than later, says Richard Came, executive director of infrastructure developer Dark Fibre Africa (DFA). “All we are waiting for is for the major telecommunications companies to complete building out or renovating their core infrastructure and then the next step will be to take fibre directly to the home” he says. Telkom currently uses copper cabling to complete the last mile connection between local exchanges and premises. Neotel has decided to use a fixed/mobile solution using CDMA technology to overcome the last mile hurdle. Other companies, such as Internet Solutions, are beginning to lay fibre optic cable to company premises. Cellular network operators Vodacom and MTN have both embarked on plans to lay fibre optic cable to meet their backhaul requirements of transporting cellular traffic between exchanges and base stations. Small Internet service providers have been connecting WiFi stations to offer interlinked, or “mesh-up”, solutions to provide a type of last mile solution. “However, none of these companies have yet to venture into offering fibre optic as a solution due to the perceived high cost of laying the cable and the disruption it may cause” says Tai Schierenberg, a partner in fibre optic solutions provider Doorway.
Play leapfrog, Schierenberg says
SA could “leapfrog” the development of application service provision by rapidly deploying fibre optic cable to homes and quickly providing reliable services to the majority of the population. Came says: “Consumer demand for services such as Internet TV, gaming and other bandwidth-intensive applications will mean fibre is the preferred carrier and not wireless.” Both Came and Schierenberg say fibre has a number of important advantages over wireless solutions in that it is not weather-dependent and is virtually 100% reliable. While wireless solutions have to obtain expensive and limited frequency spectrum, cable does not and fibre optic can carry a lot more information than its wireless equivalent. “Studies show a household wanting to view HDTV-type signals will need capacity of 19.2 Mbps and they would need total capacity of 37 Mbps. Currently, ADSL, copper cable services can only supply 500 Kbps” Came says.
Pick up speed
They say the biggest disadvantage of cable, such as cost and time to deploy, can be overcome with innovative methods. Schierenberg says new technologies, such as using special PVC-type cable covers, mean that only slit trenches have to be dug, as compared with the wide-open excavations usually used. The cable only has to be buried down to 20cm as opposed to three times that depth. “All these time-saving methods can be used to bring down the cost of recovery of the initial investment and speed up the deployment” he says. Came says DFA, which has laid about 300km of fibre in Gauteng, manages a best distance of 700m of cable a day. “I suspect that once we start laying to homes, the speed of deployment will pick up quickly” he says.
DFA is the premier wholesale, open-access fibre-infrastructure and -connectivity provider in South Africa. We finance, build, install, manage, and maintain a world-class fibre network to transmit metro and long-haul telecommunications traffic. We started rolling out our fibre network in 2007, and to date, we have deployed over 13,000 km of ducting infrastructure in major metros, secondary cities, and smaller towns. Our network runs with an industry-leading uptime of 99.98%. We lease our secure transmission and backbone fibre infrastructure and provide associated connectivity services to telecommunications operators, Internet service providers, media conglomerates, tertiary education institutions, municipalities, government organizations, and other businesses, large and small, on equal terms. DFA is a Level 3 B-BBEE Contributor on the ICT Sector Codes.