Cape Town residents Dorothy Pieterson and Hilton Esau watch the sunrise from a bridge in Cape Town’s central business district.  Picture: THE TIMES
Cape Town. Picture: THE TIMES

CAPE Town’s broadband fibre-optic network has the potential to become one of the fastest metro telecoms networks in the world.

A recent trial showed that the network can sustain ultra-fast speeds of 400Gb/s. At 400Gb/s, it takes less than 0.02 seconds to transfer data equivalent to a full-length movie.

Both the city of Cape Town and the Western Cape provincial government have aggressively pushed the roll-out of broadband, which it sees as a key economic enabler.

Cape Town set aside R236m for the 2015-16 financial year for the roll-out of broadband infrastructure throughout the metro — part of its R1.3bn broadband infrastructure programme to be completed over seven to 10 years. In 2014, the Western Cape signed a R2.89bn, 10-year contract with the State Information and Technology Agency (Sita) and Neotel to connect more than 1,900 public buildings to high-speed broadband.

Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for corporate services and compliance, Xanthea Limberg, said at the weekend the city was well on its way to realising its vision of becoming the most digitally connected city in Africa.

The 400Gb/s trial was done by ADVA Optical Networking, a German-based telecoms equipment company that provides the optic transport layer of the City’s Metro Area Network. This is the first time that data transfer speeds at this rate have been achieved on an ADVA network in Africa, and only the fifth time in the world.

The technical details of the trial involved the transfer of data at a sustained speed of 400Gb/s across a 106km fibre-optic route terminating at Nyanga and Mitchell’s Plain.

"Being able to operate at speeds such as these will ensure that the city is able to cope with its own internal demand for bandwidth for data, video and voice systems. It will also invite significant economic development opportunities on the City’s open access network, which is now being used by several commercial service providers," said Ms Limberg.

The demand for bandwidth more than doubled every year, so the trial showed how the existing fibre-optic infrastructure could scale to accommodate the demand, Ms Limberg said.

"This development shows that the city’s broadband fibre network should safely be able to cope with growing bandwidth demand for at least the next 20 years."

In her state of the province address earlier in February, Western Cape premier Helen Zille said that the provincial government would in March be launching, in partnership with Neotel, the first 50 of more than 380 public Wi-Fi hotspots where residents could access limited free Wi-Fi. She said the provincial government aimed to have free high-speed internet available in all schools by the end of 2016.