Andile Ngcaba moves to Silicon Valley to focus on 5G - TechCentral

Andile Ngcaba moves to Silicon Valley to focus on 5G

Andile Ngcaba

Local technology entrepreneur and founder of Convergence Partners Andile Ngcaba has relocated to Silicon Valley to build a start-up focused on network function virtualisation and 5G technologies, he has told TechCentral in an interview.

Ngcaba intends spending 18 months in Silicon Valley — he is based in Mountain View, the suburb where Google has its headquarters — before returning to South Africa. He has invested in a start-up, but declines to provide more details until the business is ready for commercial launch.

A previous director-general in the department of communications under the Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki administrations, Ngcaba was until recently chairman of Dimension Data Middle East & Africa. He has invested in a wide range of technology businesses, including Seacom, FibreCo and Comsol Wireless Solutions, through his investment vehicle, Convergence Partners.

Speaking to TechCentral at the FTTX Council Africa conference in Cape Town last week, Ngcaba said 5G will be unlike any mobile communication technology before it. It will be about building a “platform as a service”, in the same way the IT is now delivered as a service in the cloud computing paradigm, and it will be underpinned by ubiquitous fibre broadband infrastructure, he said.

“People in IT understand compute as a service perfectly well,” Ngcaba said. “The network is going to be like that… At the logic layer, telecoms will sit in the cloud… A lot of things related to the provisioning of the network can be in the cloud, in a cluster somewhere. We, in the telecoms industry, need to shift and accept that.”

In the future, he said, consumers and businesses will buy connectivity in the same way their buy cloud-based IT services today. “You will buy connectivity from Amazon in the same way that you buy compute power.”

Dumb pipes

Unless infrastructure operators can reinvent themselves as providers of such services, as “platform” operators, they will become “dumb pipes”, he added. “Operators today have two products: voice and data. In the new environment, they will offer a bouquet of services.”

Some operators will resist the transition because “they still enjoy revenues from the old model”.

“They will resist the model, but the reality is it is going to happen. If you see yourself as a network operator with only two products to sell, you are living in ancient times.

“The digital innovation is going to come from platforms. This is what we are saying to people who own bulk infrastructure: guys, convert your businesses to become platforms. But because they are still enjoying that legacy profit and revenue, it’s very difficult for them transform.”

Ultimately, the telecoms world could come to resemble the IT world, where there are only a handful of giant platform players.

“Public clouds will the ones that will be successful. Private cloud will diminish. There will be three or four public cloud providers that all of us will use for storage and compute power, and for virtualising some of our networks, including domestic networks in South Africa.”

In this model, consumers will buy the access and services they need from a central platform provider. “It’s a direction the operators cannot stop.”


Ngcaba believes technologies such as network function virtualisation (NFV) and software-define wide-area networking (SD-WAN) will pave the way to the new platform model.

“At the access level, you can virtualise everything, you can have appliances that are virtualised… It all becomes virtual, it becomes software in the cloud.

“You can have a cloud platform providing that sort of service to one or two or three operators. The question is what the future network operator will look like. We want to become that network of the future as quickly as possible. The network that is first to virtualise, to put in those virtual appliances, the first to do the ‘software-isation’ of the network, will win.”

Ngcaba said the South African government must move quickly to create the environment for the deployment of 5G networks. “South Africa has to be among the first 20 or 30 countries to allow this platform to be rolled out. The government must prepare for 5G.” — © 2017 NewsCentral Media


  1. Torong LD Ramela on

    Bravo! Mr. Andile Ngcaba for telling it like it is even though speaking truth to power will make truth haters to commit further in ensuring that they misunderstand you or will want every mistake in what you’ve said. Eish! O ba tlhokomele batho ba. Ke bo meno masoeu ba o bolaya batsheha!

    The 5G Technology is the NGN at its best or if you like it is the Internet of Things (IoT). New technologies must and should assist in solving the socio-economic ill’s of any society in any given country in the world.

    The future of technologies! The digital dreams and the digital nightmares, advantages for the new comers and consumers, disadvantages for old operators who are reluctant to adapt and move with the 21st century technologies.

    Unfortunately in South Africa the development of this technologies leaves millions of people behind without information as there is lack of access to proper network infrastructure in the rural areas where majority of our country’s corporate and political leaders hails from.
    We need a concerted effort and the government support in every sphere of our society to build capacity in helping our own youths to innovate around the issues of ICTs so that we as South African’s we can set a very good example to other countries that we are also innovative.
    We already have a content from our rich cultural, religious, linguistic heritage etc. What we need now it the vehicle or technology that will give service delivery a meaning. ICTs should no longer be for the rich and privileged, but a basic necessity just like water, education, health etc.

  2. Samuel Clemens on

    I recall interviewing this fellow many years ago at Dimension Data, where he was quite obviously a political appointment rather than one with any real business value to add. The truth of it is that Andile knew 9 tenths of absolutely nothing about networking – enough, it must be said, to impress the PR lady, but not enough to shed any illumination on the basics, like OSI.

  3. Samuel Clemens on

    Speaking truth to power? What on earth are you on about? Andile Ngcaba IS power, and he has got to where he has on the basis of political clout rather than any special talent in business or commerce.
    Also, 5G is not IoT. 5G is just faster dumb pipes, if you really want to get down to brass tacks.

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  5. William Stucke on

    > Ngcaba said the South African government must move quickly to create the environment for the deployment of 5G networks
    What does 5G have to do with the Government? Or even the Regulator for that matter, except for making appropriate spectrum available – which is already in progress? And Type Approving the kit.
    Deploying 5G is a function of technology and investment. And Clue.
    See the TC article about Comsol deploying a trial 5G network next month in the 28 MHz band.

  6. unfortunately my friend that’s the way of the world…politics is everything. now they even think they can articulate OSI model.

  7. gaborone kwame on

    In as much as I agree 5G is an iteration and network function virtualization has been around since the first MVNO was “born” but to belittle what he is saying without puting a subtative counter argument technically speaks to your own ignorance of the issues 5G brings into focus 5G can be the catalyst for IoT device integration that logic is clear,read the article slowly without your rose colored glasses,and he is correct the is a realignment at play in telecoms industry(my 15 years of telecoms system integration tells me so) in a word you are wrong

  8. gaborone kwame on

    OSI layer really is that the depth of your own knowledge? and you criticise him for not knowing what he is talking about?he is talking strategy you want him to tell you about the 7 layers???

  9. gaborone kwame on

    Go read the whitepaper realeased a few months back to understand what impact this has for DOC /ICASA and MNO’s if you think its about just a spectrum and kit then you don’t know what your talking about.

  10. Samuel Clemens on

    You weren’t in the interview those years ago, fella, so you do not know the topic of conversation. I was and did, and Mr Ngcaba’s inability to answer simple questions was obvious.

  11. gaborone kwame on

    and yet he was an exec chairman for over 10 years…you don’t need to know the 7 layers to driver business strategy! what is going to use that knowledge for? troubleshoot an IP data-gram during during a strat meeting? I know your type you hold interviews for your own narcissistic,ego driven… trips get over your self man

  12. Samuel Clemens on

    Settle down. I am a tech journalist. I was invited to interview andile on his choice of topic (Fibre optic connectivity). Unfortunately, he didn’t know much about it.

  13. William Stucke on

    Well, I may not know what I’m talking about but I did write part of that White Paper. Not the bit dealing with spectrum and the WOAN, I hasten to add!
    I co-wrote the well researched portion on Rapid Deployment Policy, which included the required public participation and consultation, unlike the spectrum and WOAN bit which was sucked out of someone’s thumb with zero notification or consultation.

  14. William Stucke on

    This is now the THIRD time that Government has obstructed the process of releasing High Demand Spectrum …

  15. gaborone kwame on

    William I sense an unhealthy narcissistic streak about you,I will give you credit for at least attempting to give substance to your baseless claims.WOAN proposal has far reaching impact(and it wont see the light of day)but that gives us a clue as to what Cele and his friends are trying to do…but to get back to the matter at hand it was unfair of you to write what you wrote about Ngcaba when it is clear when you should know that most players in the market recognize that 5G opens up new opportunities for iIaaS and PaaS and correctly Ngcaba sees the same.I hope its a lesson for you to refrain from making blanket statements that are not substantiated…I work for ICASA I look forward to to speaking to you in person soon.

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