CENTURION, Gauteng – 19 November 2008 – Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) has accelerated its infrastructure roll-out in Johannesburg with 350km of fibre already laid, as it prepares to finalise contracts with more companies following the recent court ruling that opened up the telecoms market to more competition. DFA owns, builds, maintains and monitors fibre network infrastructure, which is then leased to telecoms operators and can be shared by operators to save costs. DFA is targeting metropolitan areas such as Pretoria, Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban, and townships such as Soweto. The company, founded by Community Investment Ventures and VenFin, will spend R2 billion on infrastructure over the next three years. Two months ago Altech won a legal action that ruled that value-added network services (Vans) have the right to build their own telecoms infrastructure. This includes fixed-line and wireless networks. Altech, which owns value-added network Autopage, was previously not allowed to build its own telecoms infrastructure and instead had to lease space from Telkom. Following three court actions, all of which ruled in favour of Altech, this week the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) said it would convert old Vans licences into new network and services licences. This will give hundreds of voice and data carriers the right to compete directly with Telkom and Neotel. DFA director Richard Came said this week that the firm was working with several network operators, who were interested in shared infrastructure. Electronic Communications Network has indicated that it will lease space from DFA in certain areas. Internet Solutions was also evaluating its options, parent company Dimension Data said last week.
The R2 billion, from DFA’s owner Community Investment Ventures and its funding partners, Venfin and Absa Capital, will go towards expanding its network across the country. DFA says its technology allows operators to share infrastructure without affecting their competitive advantage. “The model makes economic sense because it does away with the need to duplicate expensive infrastructure, minimises traffic disruption and opens up the market to even the smallest operators,” says Came. He adds that most of the costs in laying fibre are incurred in the civil engineering phase. “By putting in a system where we lay down paired fibre optic cables, we are helping to cut costs associated with laying down individual cables. The operators would also own the cables we put down for them.”
Vodacom Business, a subsidiary of Vodacom, has already signed a contract with DFA. “Shared fibre infrastructure is the only solution that makes sense in this environment,” said Came. “A carrier-neutral network eliminates the need for each operator to create their own infrastructure… Network operators will also be able to provide services far more rapidly to customers through the use of shared infrastructure,” he said. Having only one company digging the road to lay fibre reduces disruptions to business, consumers and metro services. “A dark fibre network will also make it possible to avoid the unnecessary duplication of cellphone towers that characterised the early stages of the mobile communications industry,” said Came. Arthur Goldstuck, the managing director of World Wide Worx, said yesterday that DFA had an interesting model and was brave to get into the business early, while people were nervous of investing in infrastructure because of uncertainty surrounding licensing. DFA is operating in fixed-line networks. Goldstuck expected more Vans to build wireless networks because it was cheaper. However, a disadvantage to wireless networks could be Icasa’s requirements that companies should be at least 51 percent black owned to receive a spectrum licence.
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.