FibreCo Builds a National Optical Backbone in South Africa

  FibreCo was founded in 2009 and is a joint venture between Cell C, Internet Solutions, and Convergence Partners. FibreCo aims to build an optical backbone network that can cover the whole of South Africa and provide convenient, high-speed network access.

Backbone transmission resources in South Africa were previously monopolized by a large operator, which meant that fiber and bandwidth rental fees were expensive. This led to high communication tariffs that stymied the growth of the South African telecom industry. The contrast between the rapid economic development in South Africa and the sluggish development of its telecom industry was stark.

In this context, FibreCo planned to build a national open-access optical network extending about 12,500 km across South Africa. The project would be completed as fast as possible in three stages so that government, operators, internet service providers, and banks could benefit from better access. The network is expected to significantly reduce communication tariffs and drive the development of the telecom industry in South Africa.


Choosing the Right Supplier

ZTE has built a series of quality networks for Cell C that has significantly reduced Cell C’s OAM costs. The two companies have maintained a strong relationship for a long time. Cell C is a shareholder of FibreCo and proposed that ZTE build the backbone transmission network in South Africa.

FibreCo has even stricter customization standards than the latest European standards, and this needed to be taken into account when choosing a supplier. ZTE invited a professional subcontractor to join its team during the first round of bidding. FibreCo was greatly impressed by ZTE’s leading bearer network solutions and rich experience in global turnkey projects. It was also impressed by the local engineering experience of the subcontractor. ZTE presented FibreCo with a reasonable logistics plan, strict purchasing procedure, professional construction scheme, and excellent delivery plan.


ZTE cooperated well with UWP, the consulting company of FibreCo. Microduct was suggested for the plant exterior to make engineering easier and to save construction costs. Hybrid fiber was deployed to meet various application scenarios. FibreCo also used ZTE’s total reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexing (ROADM) solution to improve service provision, simplify network OAM, and allow WASON functionality in the future.

In September 2011, FibreCo President Andile Ngcaba and ZTE Senior Vice President Chen Jie signed the project contract. ZTE was chosen as the exclusive supplier for South Africa’s biggest optical transmission network. 

“This landmark investment will provide affordable, reliable and fast internet access for ordinary South Africans,” said Andile Ngcaba. “ZTE is committed to supplying effective solutions for its customers,” said Chen Jie. “We are proud to assist with improving telecommunications for South Africans.”



High-Capacity Long-haul Transmission Solution

ZTE provided FibreCo with a new-generation OTN solution. A high-capacity, long-haul, highly-reliable ZXWM M920 unit was used for the network. The ZXWM M920 unit

●  supports 10G/40G and can evolve into 100G for high-capacity transmission

●  has open architecture for smooth network expansion. This protects operator  investment

●  uses ROADM for fast service  provision, flexible traffic grooming, and simple network management

●  uses ZTE’s leading optical technologies to offer long-haul coverage

●  provides a protection mechanism at both equipment and network layers to ensure network stability.

ZTE’s intelligent ZXTOP510 software was also used for network planning and design. ZXTOP510 can identify and analyze network bottlenecks and optimize configuration.


Creating a Bright Future

In May 2012, FibreCo launched the optical backbone project at Bloemfontein. In attendance were government officials including the governor of Free State Province, the mayor of Bloemfontein, the FibreCo president and CEO, and the newly appointed CEO of Cell C. The project is of great significance to the South African government and operators.

The main operators in South Africa once considered working together to build an optical transmission network to address the transmission resource shortage. However, they failed to reach a consensus, and the plan was shelved. FibreCo’s open optical transmission network will be an important resource in South Africa’s future communications industry. 


Upon completion, the FibreCo optical backbone network will provide sufficient infrastructure for operators in South Africa and will significantly reduce tariffs.  Completion of the network will trigger a new round of fiber network construction, and this will allow South Africans to enjoy high-speed networks.

ZTE is the sole contractor in FibreCo’s optical backbone project and will complete the project in three to five years. FibreCo has begun considering extending the network to cover neighboring countries. This future network extension will significantly benefit the communication industries and economies of those countries. 

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