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CT takes broadband leap

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The City of Cape Town has signed up eight third-party service provider agreements as part of its universal broadband network strategy which will help drive the city’s economic growth and development.

The broadband network has to date:

The City of Cape Town this month concluded the first agreements with service providers who have taken up the spare infrastructure capacity generated via the City’s broadband network. The City says this is a step forward in realising the City’s vision of facilitating access to a high-speed broadband network.

“This in turn will help drive economic growth and development and forms part of the City’s broader commitment to building an opportunity city in which progress is made possible for all residents and businesses,” read a statement from the City of Cape Town. It added that “broadband connectivity is fundamental to creating an enabling environment for economic growth, business development and digital inclusion”.

Against this backdrop the City set aside R222 million over three years towards the roll-out of broadband infrastructure throughout the metro, as part of the City’s R1,3 billion programme over the next seven years.

To date, lease agreements have been concluded with eight third-party licensed network operators, and negotiations are progressing with 20 more, including some of the countries larger telecoms companies.

Last mile” connections to commercial buildings are now being made, which will allow businesses in these buildings to utilise high-speed telecoms networks for access to converged services and faster, cheaper and more reliable internet connectivity.

Smaller operators are also able to use the same infrastructure to enter the market, generating competition in the ISP sector and stimulating economic growth in the Western Cape private sector as a whole.

The Universal Telecoms Plan

The initial focus of the City’s investment in telecoms infrastructure, according to the statement, was to reduce telecommunication costs while improving the availability of high-speed converged services such as data, voice and video, to municipal facilities.It continued:

“The project has been a spectacular success as the City has both contained and reduced its actual spending on telecommunications whilst greatly expanding the speed (3 000 times faster than before the roll-out of the broadband project) and capacity of the network that connects City buildings and supports the work of each department.

“The City has already seen significant financial benefits from its investment in broadband. Thus far, we have saved R47,6 million in telecommunications costs and avoided R70 million in bandwidth costs for 2013/2014 financial year.

“Whilst the inclusion of more clinics, libraries and public buildings will continue, the focus has now expanded to make the network deliver on its development and public benefit potential. This will be done in three ways: providing high-speed services to hospitals, police stations and other public facilities.

The City has recently partnered with the Western Cape Government and the State IT Agency (SITA) to include public hospitals, South African Police Service (SAPS) police stations and the offices of Home Affairs, Environmental Affairs, Correctional Services and other government departments on the network.

An agreement is currently being negotiated with SITA to begin connecting SAPS stations and other national government departments.

The City has also reached agreement in principle with the Tertiary Education Network (TENET) to connect FET colleges. The first institution to benefit from this is expected to be the various campuses of False Bay College.

Wi-Fi for Poor Communities

The City’s fibre optic cables provide the backbone of wireless networks now being tested in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain. Once the technical model has been finalised, this will bring internet connectivity and other telecommunications services to over a million people living in areas which the private sector has not serviced adequately until now.

This project has been developed using the findings of a feasibility study funded by the United States Trade and Development Association (USTDA), announced last year.

The project builds on the success of the City’s SmartCape project, which provides free internet access at 102 public libraries throughout the metro. The project has expanded to provide Wi-Fi internet access in public buildings, and has over 300 000 users.

Once this pilot phase is concluded later this year, the City is expected to announce the steps that will be taken in the near future. This service will see Wi-Fi services provided in under serviced communities in a sustainable manner. It is envisaged that a Mesh Network will provide extensive Wi-Fi coverage beyond just a limited number of hot spots and directly into most people’s homes in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain.

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