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MTN and Neotel join forces for fibre network

South African operators to start building national long-distance fibre optic network in March

South Africa telcos MTN and Neotel have signed a joint agreement to build South Africa’s national long-distance fibre optic network, which will cover a distance of 5,000 km, connecting major cities across the country.

Construction of the first leg, which will extend from Gauteng to KwaZulu-Natal, is expected to start in the first week of March 2009 and should be completed before the FIFA World Cup 2010.

The fibre network will provide MTN and Neotel with almost unlimited bandwidth capacity, allowing them to carry more information at higher speeds, while using far less power than with copper cables. The network will also link with undersea cables such as EASSy and SEACOM, which are currently under construction along the eastern coast of Africa.

Tim Lowry, managing director of MTN South Africa said the co-build agreement with Neotel marks the “biggest collaboration in the South African telecommunications industry”.

Once complete, the fibre network will also end MTN’s reliance on third party transmission provision from South African telecoms giant, Telkom.

“Self-provisioning, although somewhat of a buzzword in the industry, is a strategic imperative for MTN to ensure network quality and to create a positive growth platform across South Africa and globally,” Lowry said.

“It means that we are no longer reliant on buying fibre bandwidth from Telkom to provide our clients and customers with a quality service they have come to expect from MTN as a leading service provider,” Lowry added.

Ajay Pandey, CEO and MD of Neotel added that a major benefit of the deal is the cost savings for both parties. “One of our core objectives has always been to bring down the cost of communications in South Africa - this can only truly be achieved once we completely self-provision,” he said.

“It makes sense for us to work together in building this infrastructure as it will enable us to bring services to a broader group of customers and furthermore reduces the direct cost of building that network.”