Pan-African telecommunications services provider Liquid Intelligent Technologies says it is building a 7 000km fibre network in the Eastern Cape, to connect the municipalities and citizens of SA’s least-connected province.
The Cassava Technologies subsidiary − which provides high-speed, low-latency networking infrastructure across 14 countries − says it is working with partners towards building a digital future for the province, committing to connect 27 000 government institutions over the next two years.
Formerly known as Liquid Telecom, Liquid Intelligent Technologies bills itself as Africa’s largest fibre company, with over 100 000km of its own fibre network across the continent, complemented by its VSAT network, which allows it to provide high-speed connectivity to the most remote parts of the continent.
During an interview with ITWeb, Deon Geyser, CEO of Liquid Intelligent Technologies, explained the plan is part of the Eastern Cape Broadband Project, a collaborative initiative that looks to deliver much-needed broadband services to hospitals, schools, clinics and provincial offices.
The high-speed broadband services will serve as a key enabler for the Eastern Cape municipalities, as the province accelerates its modernisation journey, which entails using technology to enhance its overall service delivery capabilities, he noted.
“While across the continent we are involved in FTTH [fibre-to-the-home], in SA, our business model is focused on providing business-to-business services.
“We see ourselves as an enabler to the fibre market and this major Eastern Cape project forms part of our public-private partnership model, which aims to provide internet services to 27 000 government institutions. We have already deployed fibre connections in 700 of those sites so far and we have 2 000 more to deploy over the next two years,” noted Geyser.
The project − part of a partnership between the State Information Technology Agency, Liquid and the Eastern Cape Provincial Government − is expected to deliver high-speed internet services. It will initially provide government facilities with 100Mbps connectivity and increase the majority of these sites to 1Gbps over the contracted period, he added.
It comes as government is expediting the second phase of its ambitious broadband project, SA Connect, to connect schools, health facilities and government offices, among other amenities.
According to Geyser, the increasing number of facilities that will be connected through the project will advance various government sectors, including education and health, as well as providing e-government services to communities that are largely plagued with unequal access to digital technology.
“The Eastern Cape municipalities are also trying to come up with different ways of being innovative to serve their communities. Different communities have different needs and it’s really important for fibre providers to also invest in community development social initiatives to uplift the communities through providing access to good quality, affordable connectivity, such as the Kayamandi Township Project, which is rethinking internet connectivity for the underserved,” he added.
The Kayamandi Fibre Project is a separate initiative run by non-profit organisation Isizwe, which aims to connect 3 000 homes in Stellenbosch’s Kayamandi Township to the internet, by bringing affordable uncapped connectivity to everyone in the area for R5 a day.
The project, the brainchild of Alan Knott-Craig Jr, is a collaborative effort run in partnership with Nokia, Liquid and other players. It does not involve trenching, but rather provides Kayamandi households with a router, allowing them to buy fibre internet on a pay-as-you-go basis through Paygozo.
“SA is in an interesting phase of telecommunications development at the moment. We have voice services that are starting to decline, which used to be a cash cow for many businesses, and traditional services such as SMSes are also pretty much in the decline stage.
“So, we really have the data aspect which is still growing, and it’s all about how we deliver connectivity as cost-efficiently as possible.
“In order to solve the connectivity challenge in SA’s rural areas, projects such as Kayamandi have to find the right mix of community involvement, provide the correct affordable pricing model and also offer quality, high-speed internet services to digitise the underserved.”
As part of its commitment to fostering innovation and build digital skills in the Eastern Cape, Liquid last year opened the first Innovation and Digital Skills Centre in Mthatha.
The initiative will allow communities close to the centres to be exposed to local learning and business opportunities, and serve as a technology hub where learners and entrepreneurs can equip themselves with the latest and most relevant digital skills.
In March, Liquid announced it had acquired a fibre pair on the Google Equiano subsea cable, which would allow the company to transport traffic up to 12 Terabits, bringing a much-needed increase in international connectivity in Western and Southern Africa.