City of Joburg eyes wider fibre roll-out

Gareth van Zyl

Johannesburg - Local government officials in Johannesburg want high-speed broadband available in more parts of the city, and not just wealthier areas.

South Africa’s biggest city is experiencing a fibre broadband land-rush as residents demand faster connections than regular fixed-line ADSL internet products.

Independent provider Vumatel debuted its fibre network in Johannesburg suburb Parkhurst in 2014 and has since expanded to other areas such as Saxonwold, Parkwood, Riviera and Killarney.

Last month Telkom also announced that Atholl, Bryanston, Dunkeld, Forest Town, Houghton, River Club, Craighall and Hyde Park would be Johannesburg suburbs to be connected to its fibre network this year. Another company called Fibrehoods is also targeting the likes of Dunkeld.

But all of these suburbs are regarded as upmarket, and the City of Johannesburg wants more areas to benefit from fibre installations.

“There is an increase in infrastructure being laid which is good but if you look at where the infrastructure is, it is still in the more affluent areas,” spokesperson for the City of Johannesburg, Nthatisi Modingoane, told Fin24 via email.

Subsequently, the city is busy establishing a broadband municipal entity to join its array of other companies, which include electricity supplier City Power.

“The aim of the Johannesburg Broadband Network Project (JBNP) is to ensure the availability of affordable broadband connectivity throughout the city, which will support socio-economic development through accelerated growth, expanded productivity and enhanced quality of life for all,” Modingoane told Fin24.

“The objective of the JBN project is to create a broadband network, initially for the city’s own use as a tool for reduced ICT costs and improved service delivery and to sell off spare capacity to the industry,” said Modingoane.

As a result, the city is currently running a competition for residents to help name the broadband entity which will tap a network that was originally being built by technology networking firm Ericsson.

The City of Johannesburg announced earlier this year that it was taking over the build of a R3.4bn fibre network from Ericsson amid an allegation that the project failed to meet its switch-on date of July 2013.

Subsequently, the City of Johannesburg approved an amount of R1.1 billion to settle the termination of the contract with Ericsson.

The move by the city was criticised by opposition political party the Democratic Alliance (DA), which said that private players are beginning to supply enough fibre broadband for the city.

“This proposed entity will not be self-sustainable and thus it will consume the financial resources that the city can use elsewhere to provide infrastructure and social services to our people,” wrote the DA spokesperson on the Johannesburg Broadband Network Project, Rabelani Dagada Dagada in an opinion piece earlier this year.

Dagada further called on the City of Johannesburg to sell its broadband infrastructure.

“I will be quick to acknowledge that we have shortage of water and electricity in Joburg, but not broadband,” he added.