Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Botswana upgrades ICT infrastructure

Government has developed a Draft National Broadband Strategy to address limited access to Information and Communications Technology in the country, especially in the rural areas. The Ministry of Transport and Communications will also improve the poor and unreliable network infrastructure, which tends to paralyze provision of services in government departments and parastatals, particularly in the rural areas.

The DNBS is a five year strategy that seeks to address shortage of both fixed and mobile broadband networks covering all the five types of ICT network.

“To implement this strategy, Government has developed an implementation plan. As part of the plan, in this financial year several initiatives have been identified which seek, amongst other things, to address issues of poor network performance, limited or lacking services and reliability,” said Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Olebile Gaborone, who was standing in for the substantive Minister of Transport and Communications.

He added that Botswana wants the type of the network that provides connectivity to other countries especially Europe and North America where Botswana gets internet and other services. He revealed that Botswana has invested heavily in the East African Submarine Cable System and West Africa Cable System undersea cables. With a total capacity of 48 x 155MB and 132 x 155MB respectively, the EASSY and WACS network connectivity is adequate in the short to medium term since the lifespan of these undersea cables is 25 years. However since Botswana is a landlocked country, the cost of accessing these undersea cables is very high due to transit costs being charged by the neighboring countries. Against this backdrop, Botswana has since adopted some initiatives which are being implemented.

“Botswana Fibre Optic Network has started negotiations with Namibian and South African operators for long term affordable transit lease agreement for Botswana’s traffic to and from the undersea cables,” Gaborone said.

BoFinet has also established Points of Presence (PoP) in London, Djibouti and South Africa, and will soon establish more in Kenya, Zambia and Namibia during this financial year. Botswana currently uses the backbone network, which connects cities, towns and villages to telecommunications network. It is a high capacity fibre based network that is currently deemed adequate for the country’s requirements. If additional capacity is required, the network can be easily upgraded.

“However, the Kgalagadi and Ngamiland districts are not connected to this fibre backbone network. Currently provision of services of these districts such Omang, passport, driver’s license, vehicle registration, GABS and mobile 3G services is a challenge due to limited bandwidth,” said Gaborone.

The Ministry is currently implementing projects to upgrade routes linking the two districts to high capacity fibre to form part of the national fibre backbone. Specifically BoFinet is undertaking is undertaking the Maun-Ngoma Bridge link which is being implemented using fibre in order to provide high bandwidth to protect communication to and from the Chobe District as well as international traffic to Zambia and Namibia.

The Sekoma-Tsabong link is being upgraded to fibre technology to connect all the villages along the route to the backbone network. This will alleviate traffic congestion to the concerned villages.

Fixed Access Network is used to connect offices, business premises and households using fixed technology such as fixed wireless, copper and fibre, with the network mainly provided by Botswana Telecommunications Limited. Currently available in most villages, the Fixed Access Network will be upgraded during the 2014/15 financial as BTCL upgrades its copper network countrywide in order to improve the quality and speed.

“BTCL will be completing a project that will provide broadband connectivity at 79 villages mainly in the rural areas,” Gaborone said.

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