Plessey completes Northern Ring build for Broadband Infraco national network
Plessey, an African provider of telecommunications infrastructure solutions, has completed the building of installation sites for the “Northern Ring” of state-owned Broadband Infraco’s new national network.
Broadband Infraco was founded with the purpose of improving market efficiency in the long distance connectivity segment by increasing the availability of long distance network infrastructure and capacity, stimulating private sector development and innovation in telecommunications services and content offerings, and providing long distance national and international connectivity to previously underserviced areas.
Having inherited optical fibre infrastructure from Transnet and Eskom, Broadband Infraco’s existing network now comprises of some 12 125 kms of transmission routes. It uses the latest generation Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) equipment, providing 2.5 and 10 gigabit capacity connections along the majority of the fibre routes.
However, these routes did not include some 1, 036 kms of infrastructure needed to cover the outer reaches of Limpopo, Kwa-Zulu Natal, the Northern Cape, the Western Cape, and sites that would enable connectivity between South Africa and Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Mozambique. Broadband Infraco’s current network building operations are therefore designed to fill these gaps and, more often than not, involve development of greenfield transmission sites.
Plessey client manager, public sector, Lawrence Rammupudu, says: “We’ve done this kind of work on budget and in record times all over Africa. Also, our financial strength and established network of black economic empowerment (BEE) and small to medium enterprise (SME) suppliers means we have no financial or operational barriers to overcome before we start a project.”
Broadband Infraco’s contract with Plessey included site surveys at both urban and rural locations along the critical and urgent Northern Ring (Limpopo, with connections to Zimbabwe), drawing up site specific designs and related health and safety plans, building access roads where necessary, installing security features at each site, laying concrete plinths to house technical equipment rooms, and installing ducts, manholes, and site finishes.
Plessey functioned as project manager, working closely with local vendors and suppliers to ensure that all the sites along the extended geographical area were tackled simultaneously, dramatically shortening the project time.
Even the fact that the project was undertaken during the summer rainy season across a range of different – and sometimes difficult - terrains did not impede overall execution. “This is what we do,” Rammupudu says. “We know how to keep projects moving ahead on multiple fronts. We don’t allow unavoidable delays in one area of a project to hold up the others.”
“We function as a turnkey provider to most of our customers and we have the specialist insight of a telecommunications infrastructure company,” Rammupudu says. “While this gave Broadband Infraco an advantage in terms of getting the Northern Ring up and running faster and more cost effectively than would otherwise be the case, it also made the Northern Ring an invaluable learning experience for the smaller enterprises that worked on it with us.
“And, from our point of view, this contract was another opportunity for us to accelerate Africa’s digital decade, not only because we installed much needed infrastructure that will keep access costs down but also because we helped to broaden South Africa’s skills base.”