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The Joburg Broadband Network Project is moving along at a steady pace, and its possibilities were seen at a progress session.
CITY officials witnessed first-hand the benefits of the billion-rand Joburg Broadband Network Project (JBNP) at Westbury Secondary School in Martindale.

 

The JBNP will enhance The JBNP will enhance communication within the cityEricsson, implementers of the project, hosted a progress session on 9 May at the school to show off a snippet of the first phase of the project.
 

Executive Mayor Amos Masondo, together with members of the mayoral committee and other top ranking officials, attended the event.

Masondo said: “We are excited about this initiative with Ericsson and the immense opportunities and benefits it provides to our citizens. We are delighted with the quality of the development to date and are looking forward to the new era of enormous socio-economic growth that this project will lead our city to.”

The project is being implemented through BWired, an Ericsson initiative formed specifically for this purpose. Musa Nkosi, the chief executive office of BWired, said: “BWired is now the catalyst that has been born out of this partnership, and is taking huge strides in not only enabling the network, but becoming the operator and face of the JBNP.”

The project would go a long way in stimulating and helping to cut the cost of communication in Joburg, which would allow residents, including small, medium and micro enterprises and start-ups, to manage their communication costs more effectively.

Broadband is a telecommunications infrastructure in which a wide band of frequencies is available to transmit information. As a result, information can be sent within a given amount of time through many channels.

Tender
Ericsson, the international supplier of mobile networks, won the tender to implement the broadband infrastructure on 26 February 2009. Since April 2010, over 300 kilometres of fibre optic cable has been laid in Joburg, from Midrand to Roodepoort, Braamfontein, Jabulani, Lenasia and Booysens.

The project should be completed in 2013, at which time over 900 kilometres of cable will have been laid, providing broadband technologies to City offices and enabling a variety of access solutions.

 

A teacher at Westbury shows a studentsA Westbury Secondary School student learns how a Mobi Pad works BWired may build infrastructure in three years and will operate it for a further 12 years before it is handed back to the City. Already, more than R250-million has been spent on the project, and a further R600-million is scheduled to be spent to complete it.
 

At the progress session, the transformative power of information and communication technology (ICT) in the development of society was illustrated using interactive demonstrations. They showed some of the applications that would benefit Joburgers once the broadband network was finished.

For example, students can access specialised educational resources; field nurses can consult with a distant medical team – the possibilities provided will have no boundaries.

Magnus Mchunguzi, the managing director of Ericsson in South Africa, said: “Slightly over a year ago, Ericsson embarked on this project with the City.

"Subsequently, BWired was established as the entity that would build, manage and operate the system. To date, we have made great strides towards the completion of the project and the fulfilment of the connectivity vision, and today we aim to show you just what we have succeeded in doing, through our various demonstrations.

“It is therefore a privilege to have been part of the connection of all the City’s entities, which will bring incredible solutions to the challenges of the everyday man, woman and child,” Mchunguzi concluded.

Demonstration
Showing what was possible, students had an interactive mathematics lesson at Westbury Secondary School, given by a teacher at St Stithian’s School in Randburg.

The students used Mobi Pads – mini laptop notebooks – to do their work; their tasks were marked instantly, leaving the teacher with extra time for one-on-one attention for learners who needed some more help.

 

A student works on a mobiA student works on a Mobi PadAccording to Parks Tau, the member of the mayoral committee for finance and economic development, this will benefit teachers. They would have enough time with students on a one-on-one basis because tasks were marked via the Mobi Pad instantly. This would allow teachers to speedily isolate particular learner problems.
 

The maths lesson was one in a series of demonstrations that showed the many possibilities of the broadband network.

Masondo said: “Our vision of transforming Johannesburg into a smart digital city is being realised today as we witness the benefits and possibilities of what and how broadband can change the lives of our communities, especially the disadvantaged.

“Going digital would result in a reduction in the cost of telecommunications, improve service delivery and increase access to information technology to every corner of the city,” he added.

The possibilities and applications provided by this network would be endless and would greatly improve service delivery and enhance the socio-economic lot of Joburg residents, said Virgil James, the City spokesperson.

“Joburg [is] a city where community development, personal growth and social mobility are enhanced so that challenges of poverty, vulnerability, inequality and social exclusion are fundamentally addressed.”

Digital city
These words were echoed by Nkosi, who added: “We believe that the network will signify a momentous development for this city and will go a long way in bridging the digital divide. In the past, we have had several conferences discussing how to close this gap between rich and poor yielding no great result, now we can say with confidence that BWired has that answer and this initiative is that bridge.”

Lars Linden, the head of Ericsson in sub-Saharan Africa, said: “Broadband services are recognised as one of the most critical pillars in the development and improvement of society. This project will significantly change the way the citizens of Johannesburg live and do business, and the partnership is a source of great pleasure and pride to Ericsson.”

The sophisticated optical network being installed is based on Ericsson’s multi-protocol label switching solution. It will provide an increased flexibility and network scalability for the City while ensuring that the high requirements for data transport are met.

The network will enable the transport of data, including video and voice – including dark fibre, lit fibre, internet and mobile backhaul, and will allow for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) services to be implemented in the future.

Services that will be provided through the high-speed broadband will make Joburg the first true digital city in sub-Saharan Africa.

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