Broadband Telecommunications Network Infrastructure

The South African Government has identified the need to invest in broadband infrastructure to enable an efficient, competitive and responsive economic climate within the country. This vision for South Africa was captured in the National Development Plan (NDP) as well as set out in the National Broadband Policy that lays out the requirement for the establishment of open access and affordable broadband network. As open access will provide wholesale access to retail service providers which in turn will provide affordable broadband services to business and public.

The Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission launched Strategic Integrated Project (SIP) 15 which aimed to ensure universal service and access to reliable, affordable and secure broadband services for all South Africans. This prioritised the stimulation of economic growth and the provision of services to rural and under-serviced areas as being the primary focus areas which need to be followed within the country. The Limpopo Provincial Administration has prioritised this need, and initiated this project as a part of what is required to establish a secure, shared, open access and affordable broadband Wide Area Network (WAN) within Limpopo.

Broadband infrastructure also forms part of the strategic objectives identified in the Department of Communication Strategic Plan, The National Information Society and Development Plan, The Green Paper on the National Integrated ICT Policy, and e-Government initiatives. Within Limpopo Province the Limpopo Development Plan (2015 to 2019) LDP and Provincial Inclusive Information Society Strategy outline specific ICT objectives.

The Limpopo Provincial Administration has anticipated the need to implement a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to maximise the socio-economic benefits of the project as shown above. This has necessitated the following of a National Treasury process in terms of Treasury Regulation 16 of the Public Finance Management Act. The first step of this process requires a Feasibility Study to be completed for this broadband WAN network. The first component of this Feasibility study is the Needs Analysis. The purpose of the Needs Analysis report, is to set out the requirements for this affordable, open access, shared and secure broadband WAN network, able to provide associated services across the whole of the Limpopo province.

The fundamental socio-economic impact to provide:

  1. Public Private partnership structures.

  2. Provincial Wide Network Services

  3. Broadband access to Government, Local, Government, Business and public

  4. Appropriate Service plans and tariffs that is affordable.

  5. Access device availability.

  6. Future proof and cost effective technology solution.

  7. Secure Network Architecture and design.

ICT development and broadband in particular, have been identified as key drivers of economic growth, as their usage enables enhanced communication flows that ultimately result in improvements in productivity and efficiency, as well as allowing for greater participation of the population in the global economy. The existence of modern ICT and broadband infrastructure that is accessible to both government and civil society therefore has a multiplier effect on the advancement of the economy. To accelerate growth and economic development through ICT, establishing an open access broadband WAN network for use by government, private sector and communities that provides affordable and secure Broadband for all, is high on the agenda of many government institutions within Limpopo.

The anticipated market demands for each of the identified market segments have been collated at a level where end users would make use of services. The broadband WAN network demand requirements will be extracted from this set of access network layer service demands. These access network, and ultimately, broadband WAN network demands have been established as they are expected to grow over the next 15 years.

Local and provincial government has been identified as the key anchor tenant whose traffic could be carried over this WAN network. A current budget analysis has been conducted to evaluate the potential changes to the current government departmental budgets. This takes into consideration the change in the basket of services available and utilised, and the potential changes to tariffs and rates.

2.4.1 Broadband Infrastructure for Limpopo Province

The scope of this project is to establish and operate a “Secure, Shared, Open Access and Affordable Wide Area Network” for Limpopo Province. The project is confined to the Limpopo Province, delivering a core network and associated distribution network across the province.

The WAN will exclude access provision, which will be delivered by access providers external to the project. In addition, e-Services and LAN (Local Access Network) implementations do not fall within the scope of this project.

The WAN will be developed to service the public sector as a core client, while providing additional capacity to the private sector, including incumbent telecommunications operators. The project will be appropriately funded and optimally procured to deliver to the capacities and requirements of the SA Connect 2030 targets. No additional scope beyond these targets has been planned for. Where it is available, use will be made of existing infrastructure and capacity in order to reduce the Capital expenditure requirements.

In the public sector, the main potential users would be Educational institutions, Health facilities and other government departmental Buildings and facilities, and this WAN interface would connect directly to the WAN from their respective Local Area Network (LANs) within each premises, building or location. Interconnections of these LANs across the WAN would be through a service such as an Internet Protocol – Virtual Private Network (IP VPN).

The private sector users are depicted as either Business or Consumer users. These users will connect with the WAN using either Fixed Wireless technology (such as WiFi) or Wireline technology (such as a Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) – a technology which is only cost effective in areas with high user density and demand) from their respective mobile devices (Laptops and Smartphones for WiFi access), or from fixed installations (WiFi or Optical Network Terminators) within buildings or homes, via the WAN. A further special form of private sector Business user would be the incumbent telecommunications operators (e.g. MTN, Vodacom, or even Telkom Fixed Retail) who could be users of backhaul capacity from Fixed New Generation Network (NGN) aggregators (e.g. New generation Multi Service Access Nodes, known as MSANs) or any Mobile Base Station sites (Base Transceiver Station (BTS) sites for 2G, Node Bs for 3G and eNode Bs for LTE) to their respective Fixed or Mobile New Generation Network (NGN) Switching Centres or exchange buildings (for traffic aggregation and / or switching). This form of traffic is termed “Carrier of Carriers” traffic. This wholesale capacity could also be extended to other private sector business users interested in Bitstream type services (typically provided between any two available WAN access points within the province) as a cheaper alternative to the use of existing Leased Line services.

2.4.2 Open Access Model

The open access model could be divided into three layers (see diagram below)

  • Passive Layer is the physical infrastructure that includes the fibre, ducting and manholes and the maintenance thereof.

  • The second layer is the wholesale layer that includes the physical broadband network transmission equipment such as the operational equipment routers, switches, billing equipment and network monitoring and management systems.

  • The third layer is the retail service layer that provides broadband services to the end user via a Retail Service Provider (RSP). The RSP is purchasing the broadband at wholesale from the OPCO for resell to the end user.