Arif Hussain, band leader

2012-08-11 08:29

Our lethargic broadband telecommunications is about to get a boost with a highly anticipated long-distance fibre optic network.

Arif Hussain, CEO of FibreCo, says about R5 billion will be invested in infrastructure over the next five years, in order to build a high speed, long-haul fibre optic network of more than 12 000km.

The project has kicked off with a 2 000km link between Joburg and Cape Town and is expected to create around 2 300 jobs countrywide.

Why is this such a groundbreaking project?
The open-access network we are developing will help to unblock one of the last major bottlenecks in South Africa’s broadband connectivity, boosting capacity between our population centres inland and the undersea cable landing stations on the east and west coasts.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, but are confident that we have the resources and partnerships to succeed.

What excites you most about your work?
The world of broadband telecommunications is very dynamic.

I am particularly fascinated by how in-novation in the telecommunications industry has impacted positively on the lives of ordinary people across the continent.

What are the highlights of your career?
One of them was being appointed chief financial officer of one of MTN’s largest start-up operations in the Middle East.

I was also CEO of Convergence Wireless Networks, where I was appointed to build a new portfolio of investments into wireless broadband operators in Africa.

What was your best business decision?

Taking up the challenge to go to Iran seven years ago as part of the start-up team to build MTN’s operation there.

We went into a country whose culture and business environment was very new to us, with challenging growth targets, and achieved success within a difficult environment.

Any start-up experience is unique and building a new team from scratch for such ventures is always exciting.

What have the challenges been?

When we arrived in Iran there were only eight million cellphone subscribers who had to pay $1 200 and wait for one year to get their SIM cards.

When we launched, we lowered the connection fee to less than $150 and increased the number of mobile subscribers dramatically.

Today, that network alone has more than 25 million subscribers.

It was extremely rewarding to see how access to affordable mobile communications made such a big difference to the lives of so many people.

» Off duty

Favourite holiday destination?
Cape Town has beautiful weather, stunning landscapes and great restaurants.

It also has a unique character that goes back hundreds of years.

I am inspired by this natural beauty in an urbanised environment with diverse traditions and cultures.

Favourite books?
At the moment I prefer fictional works for the escapism they offer.

Over the years I have read mainly biographies and books on business.

Favourite gadget?
iPad3. I use it for everything, including reading books, skype, surfing the net and emails.

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