LIQUID Telecom last year said it would invest in expanding into new countries to ensure that all countries and operators in central and southern Africa are directly connected.Business Reporter Paul Nyakazeya (PN) spoke to Liquid Telecom’s managing director, Wellington Makamure (WM), on the project and the company’s plans this year. He began by asking him about progress on the continental rollout.
WM: Liquid Telecom has built Africa’s largest single fibre network, currently stretching over 17 000 km across South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Lesotho, DRC, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. The fibre network currently covers Africa’s sub Saharan growing economies, where no fixed network has existed before. We are also adding more metro fibre networks in to each country to enhance our existing footprint as well as our last mile access networks using WIMAX, Wifi and other wireless technologies.
PN: In Zimbabwe, no other Integrated Access Point (IAP) provider has managed to achieve what you have achieved in such a short space of time. It is joked that most operators have opted to wait for you to construct the network and then use it for their backhaul purposes. What percent of traffic in Zimbabwe do you control?
WM: All operators in Zimbabwe have access to 6,2 Gbps to 6,5 Gbps of raw Internet bandwidth. Liquid Telecom accounts for around 80 percent of this capacity. Any licensed telecoms company can get access to Liquid Telecom’s network. Liquid provides IP Transit service to major Internet Service Providers and other Telcos with quality and exceptional speeds.
PN: You have a blueprint to deploy urban fibre in other countries. What does this mean to the ordinary man on the street?
WM: We use GPON and other Point to Point connections for Metro links. The ordinary man in the street is now able to experience superfast Internet connections. They can enjoy direct to the home services like High Definition content, live online TV or video on demand via IP TV. Clients are also able to seamlessly communicate through VoIP services such as video skyping. Due to the stability of fibre cables, service degradation is minimised and the connections are very reliable, secure and scalable.
PN: How far have you gone in building the first urban network in Zimbabwe which provides bandwidth speeds of up to 20 mbps in a number of urban centers?
WM: Fibre to the home (FTTH) is already active in Harare suburbs like Borrowdale Brooke, Milton Park, Belgravia, Kensington, Avondale, some parts of the Harare Central Business District and Avenues, Borrowdale East and West, Ridgeview, Alexandra Park and Mount Pleasant. Eastlea, Gunhill, Chisipite and Highlands will be ready soon as cable has just been deployed.
PN: And what does this mean to residents in those areas?
WM: Residences in these areas are now able to access fast and reliable Internet connectivity with the capability to stream high definition quality videos without buffering. The FTTH network is ready to carry high bandwidth multimedia content such as IPTV when the content becomes available on the market. The good thing with fibre is that it is future proof and supports all future applications. Essentially those who are subscribing now are effectively future insulated.
PN: What plans do you have for high density areas in this regard?
WM: Liquid Telecom is closely working with government in finding solutions to achieve cost effective methods of deploying FTTH in the high density areas. Currently we have customers that we are connected via WiMax and the plan is to upgrade to fibre where the business model demonstrates viability.
PN: How many kilometres worth of fibre did you have as at January 31, 2013?
WM: In total, we have around 5 500 kilometres of fibre in Zimbabwe.
PN: You are connected to three main subsea fibre systems of Africa, EASSy, SEACOM and SAT3. Any plans to increase the number and what are the advantages?
WM: Liquid Telecom is connected to two additional sub-sea cable systems,WACS and TEAMS. This has increased redundancy and uptime because all five cables operate simultaneously on a load balancing basis. This means that customers are not affected in the event that one or two of the cables develop a fault.
PN: During the first quarter of last year, you said the company had total of 10G capacity and was upgrading to 30G capacity by end of September last year. How far have you gone in this regard?
WM: The network capacity was upgraded to 30G in September 2013. It is upgradable to 80G. The Harare metro core network is currently configured and running at 100G.
PN: You have a network operation centre which monitors fibre breaks even as far as Zambia. How far does it monitor the network and what does it mean to communication in Zimbabwe?
WM: The Network Operations Centre (NOC) is based in Harare. This is now the regional NOC. The Network Operation Centre monitors the whole fibre and radio network from UK through South Africa, Zimbabwe to Zambia. The NOC monitorslink Availability, Performance and Qualityof Service (QoS) 24hours a day. This ensures quality and reliable communication from outside Zimbabwe, within Zimbabwe and through Zimbabwe for the benefit of our partners.
PN: You have a dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM), a technology that puts data from different sources together on an optical fibre, with each signal carried at the same time on its own separate light wavelength. How does business benefit from it?
WM: Each light wavelength from each data source can have 10G, 40G and 100G capacity. This means that if we decide to use all forty available wavelengths at 100G, then our bandwidth capacity will be 4Tbps, meaning we can never really run out of capacity. We assure the nation that we have unlimited capacity to serve locally and internationally and traffic will be safe and secure.