The City of Tshwane wants to make it easier for telecommunications operators to deploy fibre-optic networks in Pretoria and surrounding areas with a new set of bylaws to ease their construction.
The city is set to release a document for public discussion on 1 July in which it will outline proposed bylaws dealing with the laying of fibre infrastructure in the city. The plan is to produce a set of standards for the deployment of fibre so as to minimise the impact on commuters and ensure contractors adhere to minimum standards.
An industry source, who does not want to be named because of a need to retain a relationship with both the municipality and operators, says it’s important to remember that “subcontractors are deploying assets on behalf of operators, but that the operators have no way of controlling standards. Legislation is vital if these assets are to be deployed effectively.”
Despite government’s apparent eagerness to expedite fibre projects, there is a lack of legislation guiding them. With more than 400 licensed telecoms operators in SA, the industry believes guidelines are long overdue.
Without a process for approving and managing contractors, the door is open for corruption and mismanagement, the source says. It’s said to be common knowledge in the industry that wayleaves, which grant contractors permission to trench, can be fast-tracked by means of wining and dining the right people. Tshwane wants to automate the process of granting wayleaves to prevent this sort of practice.
It’s understood Tshwane wants to partner with companies that have infrastructure in place when it can and instead use its budget to build networks in areas that won’t get fibre from commercial operators.
Industry players say streamlining the wayleaves process is essential, especially with big projects underway. For example, FibreCo – a joint venture between Cell C, Dimension Data and Convergence Partners – plans to build 12 000km of fibre over the next five years, but if wayleaves aren’t promptly processed this may not be possible.
According to the source, the fibre industry is “petrified of government because it can drag its feet”.
“The moment you apply to trench a road, you have get permission from up to a dozen individual entities, from utilities departments to other companies who have already got fibre in place. Each of these parties has 30 days to respond and some take 29 days on purpose.”
If Tshwane is able to expedite fibre projects for commercial players, it could provide a model for other cities to emulate. — Craig Wilson, TechCentral