Broad opportunites

2016-04-19 06:00

A broadband network in the inner city is allowing businesses to function better.

The City of Cape Town has invested R1.7bn into the creation of its fibre-optic municipal broadband network, a pilot project currently on the go in the CBD.

This project is enabling the private sector to leverage off the same network from a wide choice of competitively priced service providers, according to a recent report of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID)’s ‘The state of Cape Town central city report: 2015 in review’.

The report, published annually by the CCID as a summary of the investment climate in the CBD, highlights information as provided by the City’s telecommunications branch, the overseers of the network roll-out.

The R1.7bn is being invested over a seven-year period, primarily to connect the City’s own and Western Cape Government’s buildings and facilities.

“The roll-out places the CBD on a par with other international CBDs where affordable, fast broadband connectivity is a given,” says Rob Kane, chairman of the CCID.

This will enable commercial operators to use existing infrastructure to provide high-speed fibre-optic services to tenants in commercial properties.

By the end of June 2015, 290 government buildings had already been connected across the metro, along with 38 connections rolled out to private buildings – of which 35 in the Cape Town CBD.

As of this week, that number had already been expanded to a further 14 buildings, bringing the total in the CBD to 49 private buildings.

The pilot project will ultimately see the City installing a cable to every building in the CBD, so that when a request for a fibre-optic pair allocation is received, it can be provided immediately.

“Our reputation on internet speeds in general in South Africa has not been great. Compared to overseas our speeds have been notoriously slow, so this has certainly been one of the factors that businesses consider when they think about being based here in the first place,” says Kane.

Businesses in general are becoming more and more reliant on the internet to do business, so fast speeds at affordable rates – particularly as businesses face tough economic times – are extremely important to keep their operating costs down, he explains.

“The City’s roll-out of its fibre-optic municipal broad network across the entire metropole is a real game-changer for Cape Town. And for us in the CBD, because the City is conducting its pilot project here in terms of providing lines to private buildings at the City’s cost and thus enabling the private sector to leverage off its network, it changes the online environment for our CBD business community entirely.”

The pilot project is the result of the City’s network infrastructure having been designed as “open access” enabling multiple networks and service providers to use it – unlike a privately owned cable connection which is for the use of one service provider only.

Once the City’s municipal cable has been installed, multiple commercial operators can provide services at a speed of 1Gbps to a building’s tenants – given tenants choice, encouraging competition, improving services and driving prices down.

“We believe that the most important thing this network will do for businesses in the CBD is that – irrespective of whether the business is a start-up sharing working space in the East City or a high-end corporate in a premium grade office property – it will give everyone the same opportunity to access the same fast speeds and choice of competitive service providers,” Kane says. “This type of internet connectivity has only really been available to date for those leasing offices in high-end office parks.”

CBD buildings in the pilot project can be connected to the City’s network infrastructure once a service provider asks the City’s telecommunications brand to lease an access fibre to it, and the building owner has given permission.

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