Liquid Telecom is planning to build more fibre routes across South Africa, with work expected to begin on a new leg between Durban and Cape Town, connecting the coastal cities of Port Elizabeth and East London, by the end of the year.
The company’s chief business development officer, Willem Marais, said in an interview with TechCentral on Tuesday that it’s still talking to potential partners about a co-build along the route. It has previously built certain national fibre routes in partnership with Vodacom and MTN.
In the past 18 months, the company has completed several fibre links, including a leg connecting Gauteng and Zimbabwe and a network connecting Polokwane to Nelspruit via Tzaneen and Bushbuckridge.
It has also completed a leg connecting Nelspruit to Ermelo, with a third phase — which will link Ermelo to Ladysmith in northern KwaZulu-Natal now under way. This section will connect to the existing fibre route running from the subsea cable landing station at Mtunzini on the north coast, where the Seacom, Eassy and Safe systems come ashore, to Durban and Johannesburg. This adds to infrastructure nearing completion in North West that connects towns such as Rustenburg and Mahikeng, along with spurs into Botswana.
The various builds, collectively call NLD — which is short for “national long distance” — initially consisted of the Mtunzini/Durban/Johannesburg route, followed by a triangle-shaped route between Johannesburg, Kimberley and Bloemfontein. There is also a leg connecting Bloemfontein and Cape Town, built along the N1 highway. Together, these are known as the NLD 1-4 routes.
“There are still talks about the potential construction of NLD 5 and NLD 6, which will be from Cape Town to Durban along the coast via Port Elizabeth and East London. We haven’t yet reached agreement with main anchor tenants on the exact details of that route, but we aim to start with construction by the end of this calendar year,” said Marais.
The NLD links are all buried fibre, to comply with the specifications developed by roads agency Sanral — the routes are built alongside national highways. “Sanral’s spec is trenched and buried infrastructure as it does not want gum poles and concrete poles next to the highways. Also, for longevity, the life of a trenched and buried fibre system is far greater.”
Each duct along the routes has multiple sleeves, allowing for greater expansion than is possible with aerial fibre, Marais said. It also avoids faults caused by external factors like veld fires, which could damage the infrastructure. One option for operators is stringing fibre along power lines, but maintenance then becomes difficult and costly.
When the Econet Group-owned Liquid Telecom acquired Neotel earlier this year in a R6.5bn deal, it got access to the NLD 1-4 routes, as well as the old Transtel fibre routes, which run mainly along the country’s railway lines.
Earlier on Tuesday, Liquid Telecom said it had completed 100G upgrades to key routes on its East Africa fibre ring. The upgrade to 100G wavelengths takes advantage of the latest dense wave-division multiplexing technology from its partner Ekinops, offering up to 10 times the speed of previously used 10G wavelengths, it said. Upgrades will soon happen in Southern Africa, too, according to Marais.
Liquid Telecom’s pan-African fibre network now consists of 50 000km of infrastructure.
Marais said the company will soon begin expansion in West Africa. Expansion there will be both organic and through acquisitions. – © 2017 NewsCentral Media