Convergence Partners chairman Andile Ngcaba hinted strongly on Tuesday that he wants to build an African version of Telehouse Europe, the carrier-neutral colocation facility based in London’s Docklands that serves as the main hub of Internet traffic in the UK.
Speaking at an industry panel organised by Vodacom subsidiary Gateway Communications, Ngcaba said that far too much telecommunications traffic continues to be routed via London instead of remaining in Africa.
Convergence Partners is an investor in a range of telecoms infrastructure projects, including FibreCo, which recently began building a national fibre network, and Seacom, the undersea cable along Africa’s east coast. The company is also a shareholder in the Intelsat New Dawn satellite, which was launched last year to serve African markets.
Ngcaba said on Tuesday that most undersea and satellite providers still want to “terminate” their telecoms traffic in Europe. “Most satellite teleports, even for intra-Africa traffic, sit in Europe,” he said.
Convergence Partners, he said, wants to build a “big Telehouse” in Africa that will “interconnect all the cable and satellite operators so that intra-Africa traffic can be switched and peered within the African continent”.
“This is going to require cooperation between [industry] players because it is about cooperation rather than competing to put in this type of infrastructure,” Ngcaba said.
“There are some cases where, if traffic comes out of Johannesburg, via Cape Town, to Lagos, it has to go via London and then back to Lagos. We have to change this and the only way to do that is to cooperate … to build this mega teleport to bring together fibre players and satellite operators in one African location.”
He did not say where Convergence Partners planned to build the facility or how much it would cost. TechCentral was not immediately able to reach the company’s CEO, Brandon Doyle, for comment.
Ngcaba’s comments come just weeks after Convergence Partners revealed it wanted to build a multibillion-rand national wholesale mobile broadband network using long-term evolution (LTE) technology.
TechCentral broke the news earlier this month that the company wants to build the network to provide wholesale services to incumbent and emerging operators. Doyle said at the time that the proposed investment was part of Convergence Partners’ plans to build networks spanning a range of technologies.
Ngcaba said on Tuesday that he advocated “one common infrastructure” in telecoms to reduce costs, bring down prices for consumers and shorten the period needed for operators to get a return on investment.
He said if four or five operators were licensed to build LTE networks, they would be forced to cherry pick customers in the urban areas rather than focusing on more outlying areas that are not as economically feasible.
“We need to share infrastructure, both at the spectrum and fibre levels. People can still compete at another level.”
Asked whether having one player offering infrastructure would lead to monopoly pricing and anticompetitive abuses, Ngcaba said: “All these things get agreed upon beforehand and get regulated. Prices will be negotiated between operators.
“We need models to ensure universality in the provision of broadband and ensure prices are reasonable and that there is a level playing field that will allow incumbents and new entrants to operate in a fair and competitive environment. These things can be achieved at the commercial and regulatory level.” — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral
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