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The City of Tshwane has partnered with Storm to conduct three proof ofconcept projects to demonstrate that Tshwane can use its currentinfrastructure to bring down the costs of telephone and high-speed Internetaccess services for its citizens.

After investing millions on its infrastructure, the City of Tshwane now has a robust metropolitan optic fibre network that has enough capacity to offer broadband connectivity within the city. While there is no legislation that stands in the way of the City of Tshwane offering services right now, regulations do prevent the municipality from offering these services directly to end-users.

Storm will access this spare capacity and on-sell broadband voice and data connectivity within Tshwane. Dave Gale, business development director at Storm says, "Essentially Storm takes care of two elements of the project. Firstly, we provide the back-end connectivity and interconnection with other networks and secondly, we provide services such as Internet connectivity and voice calls over the various technologies Tshwane are deploying, such as Powerline Communications (PLC), Wireless and Fibre Optic/ Ethernet to end users in Tshwane.

The pilot is being conducted in three simultaneous projects. Storm¹s initial focus is to complete the beta-tests using Fibre Optic/ Ethernet based connectivity and get some permanent sites up and running. Thereafter, Storm will move to complete the PLC best testing and then finally, finalise the Wi-Fi implementations. The fibre loops provide the backbone. Even if users connect using PLC or Wi-Fi for the "last mile", the voice or data traffic will ultimately travel along the fibre backbone network to Storm¹s node before interconnecting with other networks and spreading beyond the Tshwane region.

The first pilot will be completed by early 2006 and from the progress we have made so far, it is looking really positive, says Gale. The PLC and WiFi technologies present some fundamental logistical questions as this will be the first time that Storm will offer services using these media. But, by the time City of Tshwane and Storm have proved the concept and are ready to launch a commercial service, these questions will have been answered.

"The long term objective of this project has always been to drive telecommunications costs within Tshwane down to levels that the Government expects. This will achieve two goals, firstly, it will catalyse economic growth in the city and secondly, it will enable a greater sector of the community to access telephony and Internet services," concludes Gale.