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​​City’s broadband network - A game changer

The City of Johannesburg is going to take over the control of the Johannesburg Broadband Network (JBN) after the council recently approved the creation of a municipal-owned entity (MOE) to run it.

This followed the cancellation of the contract with Ericsson SA, which won it in 2010 but later ceded it to CitiConnect Communications.

Initiated in 2006, the project was designed to integrate the City’s telecommunications platforms, lower operational costs, increase access, lower costs of communications for residents and allow access to areas which were previously not connected because they had no fibre network.

Zolani Matebese, the City’s Head of Broadband, said once all the outstanding issues surrounding the cancellation had been resolved, the JBN would become “an absolute game changer” for both the City and its residents.

Matebese said after the conclusion of the termination and transition arrangements, the City will obtain full control of BWired, the operating entity created to implement the project. According to the prescripts of the Municipal Finance Management Act, BWired now becomes an MOE.

“This exciting development accelerates the City’s ability to fast-track its Smart City programmes. The 900km of fibre-optic cables that have been rolled out provide us with backhaul infrastructure capacity to internet service providers and mobile operators, removing the entry barrier for smaller providers and capital expenditure for larger ones,” said Matebese.

“We’ve hit the ground running and are already making headway in rolling out several Smart City initiatives,” he said.

Matebese said after the termination the City was released from the obligation to pay R279 million a year over 12 years, allowing it to realise a 20% annual saving.

“This projected 20% annual saving will go back into the fiscus and allow us to apply more Smart City initiatives,” he said.

Small businesses will also benefit. In the past small businesses were not able to use Cloud technology due to a lack of bandwidth. “We can deliver so much more now that we have the broadband platform. Small businesses and all other users will now have access to a wide range of applications and services that were not previously available. Poor and undeveloped areas have also benefited,” he said.

The City, through its Smart City drive has:

Rolled out 54 Wi-Fi hotspots: All of them are on the Rea Vaya T1 and T2 routes and 20 are mobile hotspots (buses)
Ensured internet access in 30 libraries across the city, with some 80 libraries to be connected by June 2016;
Installed several hundred smart meters; and
Launched the Jozi Educational Digital Interns (COJEDI) initiative and Hack Jozi Challenge.
Matebese said COJEDI was an educational drive that would transform the way in which technology and telecommunications education were perceived and received by the public.

The programme aims to train 1 000 students each year to enable them to become employable or start SMMEs. As payback, they operate as outreach ambassadors

The Hack Jozi initiative, run in partnership with Wits University, encourages innovative thinkers to develop an idea that tackles or addresses a localised or community need. For more information, visit http://hackjozichallenge.co.za.