With physical distancing encouraged amid Covid-19, the need for reliable fibre connectivity and infrastructure has increased, says open access network provider Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) strategy, mergers and acquisitions and innovation executive Vino Govender.
“We have seen a significant increase in South Africa’s demand for connectivity, owing to the national lockdown, as more people are working remotely from home and students are using online learning platforms for their studies.”
Additionally, consumer consumption of online entertainment and streaming services have increased exponentially, so much so that platforms such as Netflix and YouTube limited the resolution on video content so as to curtail the strain placed on networks to carry the associated data traffic, he adds.
Consequently, South Africa will need to continue the accelerated deployment and development of this critical infrastructure. “The increased use of remote technologies needs to be provided for by increasing the reach, density and coverage of access and backhaul infrastructure and services,” he adds.
When it comes to bandwidth capacity, this is achieved through improved spectrum efficiency, the increased availability of mobile spectrum and in cases where spectrum is limited, the roll-out and densification of mobile site coverage.
Since mobile network operators were granted temporary mobile spectrum in order to increase bandwidth capacity as a result of Covid-19, the need to densify coverage was limited and the existing site’s transmission fibre backhaul would have been in place already to service this demand.
Govender attributes this largely to fibre being futureproof, explaining that a fibre line’s bandwidth can be converted from less than a gigabit per second to terabits per second on the same fibre, should demand require, by upgrading the active equipment that “lights up” the fibre.
He adds that rolling out fibre networks is capital intensive, with investors also considering their return profile when making such investments.
“There are some challenges with regards to expediting the roll-out of infrastructure such as landlord permissions, wayleaves and criminal elements that impede deployment in areas.”
However, DFA is actively engaged with government at a national and provincial level and also engages property groups and industry bodies such as the Digital Council of South Africa in addressing these issues in a constructive manner. “We have seen lots of progress with regards to this,” he enthuses.
“DFA takes a proactive stance in resolving these issues since the company believes that any impediment to the densification and deployment of digital infrastructure has negative consequences to end-users, citizens, business and the country as a whole.”
This belief, which is epitomised in DFA’s vision statement: “Enabling a high-speed digital world where innovations and meaningful connections prosper. Connecting Africans to each other and to the world”, underpins its participation in and contribution towards connectivity.
DFA has undertaken social outreach initiatives in collaboration with information, communication and technology solutions provider Reflex Solutions - which entails the installation and supply of free connectivity to the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, in Soweto, which has enabled staff and patients to stay connected.
“The hospital is being used as a predetermined Covid-19 facility, and many doctors, nurses and staff use the connectivity to keep abreast of news of the pandemic and the status of their patients as well.”
He adds that DFA is also in the process of delivering similar connectivity initiatives to Steve Biko Academic Hospital, in Pretoria, as well as at two field hospitals in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.
Govender also emphasises the importance and focus that the company places on the wellbeing of its own staff in these challenging times.
“Physical and psychological wellbeing of our staff is of utmost importance and the programme of employee wellness provider Careways that the company has to support staff is complemented by infection mitigation policies and procedures that we have implemented.”
He adds that the company also has weekly digitally enabled company-wide townhalls where the CEO and executive committee of the business keep the staff informed of recent developments, company performance and also encourage people to take the appropriate actions for physical and psychological wellbeing.
Where Covid-19 had a significant impact in reducing the volume of work in a department, the company repurposed these DFA ambassadors in areas such as data quality and data cleaning, which is a key capability and requirement and enabler for the company’s digital transformation and automation programme.
DFA has also implemented a Work Life Balance diary blocker daily during which no internal meetings are scheduled.
Govender concludes that this is done to ensure that all DFA ambassadors have time set aside to get away from their desk, grab a meal, take a walk, or otherwise, to maintain a healthy mental and physical state.
To watch a video in which Dark Fibre Africa strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and innovation executive Vino Govender discusses the increased demand for bandwidth and data during Covid-19, scan the barcode with your phone’s QR reader, or go to 'Video Reports’ on www.engineeringnews.co.za
Camerawork: Kutlwano Matala. Editing: Nicholas Boyd. Recorded: 23.07.2020