Implementing open-access fibre-optic networks is integral to helping municipal services transfer data quicker in a smart city, says fibre network provider Dark Fibre Africa (DFA).
“For a city to be successful, it needs to be a smart city. For a smart city to be successful, it needs certain enabling platforms – one of which is a high-speed fibre-optic network,” says DFA chief strategy officer Reshaad Sha.
He explains that DFA’s open- access fibre network is not supplied directly to most end-users, but is available to multiple telecommunications service providers on an equal-access basis. These service providers then make access to the network available according to their business criteria. “Any telecommunications client can buy access to the network, thereby alleviating any discrimination based on the size of the operators,” says Sha.
The open-access principle enables an efficient use of capital, where a one-off investment is made, thereby enabling enough capacity for service providers to enter and use the network.
The alternative is that service providers invest in their own fibre-network infrastructure. This results in the duplication of capital expenditure (capex) and creates an oversupply with very little financial returns, specifically in areas where existing open-access infrastructure has already been deployed.
DFA’s network is futureproof, as it provides access to the most up-to-date optical fibre technologies on the market. DFA clients can benefit from competitive advantages by simply upgrading their own equipment without carrying the cost of the underlying infrastructure.
DFA tells Engineering News that its fibre network currently has the capacity to handle bandwidths far larger than South Africa’s expected broadband traffic requirements over the next 20 years. The company can also install and commission additional fibre at short notice to suit a client’s requirements.
DFA can, therefore, focus on expanding its current network and offer remote clients more cost- effective options in terms of installing fibre capacity to accommodate their needs.
Meanwhile, Sha reveals that over 80% of the capex on a fibre-optic network is spent on civil infrastructure such as digging the trenches, installing the fibre ducts and reinstating the trench.
“Since it requires significant investment to establish the trench needed for fibre networks throughout the country, it only makes sense for there to be one open-access dark fibre-based trench with enough capacity installed in the trench to allow for sufficient capacity to accommodate hundreds, if not thousands, of service providers.”
Sha highlights that the major benefit to a telecommunications service provider that is able to lease a portion of DFA’s network is, therefore, a significant reduction in capital costs.
“This enables service providers to reduce their costs in the form of a lower price for Internet connectivity. “Open-access fibre networks . . . directly enable end-users to obtain a better price point since the business model enables a pricing regime that directly benefits the service provider,” he adds.
DFA currently services several municipalities through a telecommunications service provider and, in some cases, it services municipalities directly.
The company provides its services in all the major metropolitan municipalities and secondary cities in South Africa, with a capital investment of over R5-billion to date, delivering more than 8 300 km of fibre routes. “The actual distance of installed fibre cable is far greater than the route kilometres, at several tens-of-thousands of kilometres,” Sha states.
“Basically, we can build a fibre end point wherever a customer requires it from our existing footprint, which is in a state of con- tinued expansion,” he says, adding that the installation cost is based on a pricing model and covered by DFA. This pricing model is determined by the type of product the service provider chooses and the capital costs to pick up the end point.