Joburg edges towards smart city status

The City of Johannesburg is on the brink of becoming a smart city, as the Johannesburg Broadband Network Project (JBNP) is approximately 82% complete.

This was revealed by Willie Olivier, CTO of BWired, a partnership between the City of Johannesburg and Ericsson created to implement the project.

BWired says it is on track to start delivering high-speed broadband services to businesses and homes in greater Johannesburg by the first quarter of 2013. This switch-on will be “a game-changer” for the city, it adds.

The company states that the first phase of the network will go live in mid-2012, when the civic centre, in Braamfontein, is connected to the City of Johannesburg’s data centre, in Bryanston.

More than 100 municipal buildings have already been connected to the network, and BWired expects all municipal offices and service providers to be fully connected by 2013 – a key element of the City of Johannesburg’s vision of becoming a fully connected smart city.

Musa Nkosi, executive director of BWired, says the network will enable the transport of any kind of data, video and voice – including high-definition, Internet-based television services.

“The speeds that the network will provide are well in excess of anything seen in SA at the moment. Businesses will be able to get well in excess of 1Gbps, with residential users likely to be able to connect at up to 100Mbps. The fastest broadband access speeds in SA at the moment are in the region of 10Mbps, which is expected to reach 20Mbps to 30Mbps with the launch of LTE.”
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In an interview with ITWeb, Olivier said the network is instrumental in building the first smart city in Africa.

“This alone will forge the City of Johannesburg as one of the leading cities in Africa and [bring it] well in line with leading cities around the world. The city originally conceptualised the JBNP to just connect its buildings. BWired developed this further by providing a fibre-optic network with excess capacity to cater for future growth and demands, and ultimately, the first smart city in Africa.”

Olivier also explained that the City of Johannesburg will move its agreed ICT services to BWired, where BWired will provide it with a fibre-optic network that will allow greater capacity and flexible services, giving the city, and ultimately businesses and citizens, a greater benefit at no additional cost.

“One of the biggest benefits of the 1.2Tb capacity of the JBNP is the realisation of a smart city, the first concept of its kind in Africa. Smart cities are not borne out of one idea, but rather a multitude of ideas and concepts such as e-health, e-learning, e-governance and e-commerce,” he pointed out.

“Residential benefits include HD video and content on-demand, home surveillance, home WAN, as well as home automation. For the enterprise, there is HD video conferencing, parking and power management systems.”

He explained that one of the well-known smart cities in the world is Stockholm, in Sweden, where the average citizen has fibre to the home of 40Mbps, “a realisation that is still a number of years away for Johannesburg, but something that the JBNP will be instrumental in building towards”.

Olivier also revealed the City of Johannesburg started a tender process in the middle of 2005, where Ericsson was awarded the tender in 2009, and subsequently ceded the tender to BWired to build, operate and transfer the network on behalf of the city.

Among the challenges that BWired faced to date, Olivier said, has been a shortage of skilled personnel in fibre-optic infrastructure, as well as dealing with communities in efforts to utilise local and community-based labour and skills in each ward.

He also noted that BWired will consider taking the concept to other cities in SA.

Story from ITWeb