Dark Fiber Africa is using Zimbabwe’s major rail network to lay 2000km of fiber across the country

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In 2020 Dark Fiber Africa (DFA) opened a shop in Zimbabwe after obtaining a Class B Internet Access Provider license from POTRAZ. Since then they have been laying fiber in the metropolitan areas of Harare. They recently partnered up with Bandwidth and Cloud Services Group (BCS) for a long-haul fiber backbone project.

This project is aimed at providing better connectivity between towns and cities across the country with the grand plan being to provide connectivity between all countries in the region. So far the project has laid down 1180km of fiber stretching from Beitbridge to Victoria Falls in its first phase.

The second phase of the project which will commence in early 2023 will extend the network from Somabula to Harare via Gweru and from Bulawayo to Plumtree as well as from Harare to Mutare.

The build cost of the Beitbridge to Victoria Falls long-haul network infrastructure was over USD18 million and the next phase is expected to cost the same.

DFA press release

DFA is also coming in as an additional gateway for Zimbabwe’s internet and is the 3rd biggest in the country behind Liquid and Telone. The promise of this is less congestion on these gateways leading to faster internet. That is the hope.

So far one long-haul backbone fiber project has been implemented by DFA with another underway in 2023. Three more such projects are in the pipeline which will be interconnecting Zimbabwe with South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, and Mozambique. Africa is connected to the rest of the world predominantly by undersea fiber cables which make landfall in coastal countries. Such cross-border connections with countries that are not landlocked will grant DFA access to these connections both on the east and west side of Africa.

Additionally having as many connections to the outside world improve network resilience in the country such that accidents like a farmer plowing a backbone cable and damaging it will not shut down a whole country’s internet.

Let’s talk about BCS, the company owning 68% of the project

Bandwidth and Cloud Services group is the pan-African business with the biggest share of the project. At over 80 000km of fiber laid, it has the second-largest fiber network in Africa behind Liquid Intelligent Technology’s tally of over 100 000km. So they are not new to projects of this scale.

Most of their operations were restricted to central Africa up until 2018 when they got a license to set up a presence in Zambia marking their entry into Southern Africa. In 2021 they obtained licenses to operate in Zimbabwe and Angola and which then initiated the 5-phase backbone fiber project they are running in Zimbabwe.

BCS is providing most of the funding and contracting DFA to perform the fiber laying. Since the requirement is a carrier-grade network (A network ISPs like TelOne and Dandemutande can lease bandwidth from) DFA is their partner of choice as their business is to set up such networks. In fact, DFA is so good at this that it was acquired by Vodacom in South Africa for its expertise in developing such carrier-grade networks.

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11 comments

  1. The Empress

    So will this have a knock on effect on the price of data for the average consumer?

    1. Olly

      Not exactly. It gives providers like Telone, Utande and nice ISPs an alternative fibre route in and out of the country. While it will be cheaper than existing options, it won’t be significantly so, because it costs so much money to build and profits need to be turned.
      Plus, with dark fibre or leased waves, these run on lengthy multi-year contracts, so while ISPs might lease more capacity with DFA they’re not able to immediately switch over.
      The more likely story is that prices won’t _increase_ significantly, but it will take years for a dark fibre/wave price war to take place amongst the ISP suppliers.

      1. The Empress

        OK thanks for the explanation. So the dream of cheaper still lives on. One day it will happen 😔

    2. Imi Vanhu Musadaro

      Prices in Zimbabwe rarely go down as much as the consumer would expect. So many projects have been launched with a minimal difference to the consumer. Varun Beverages (vePepsi ne Mirinda) are the only ones who have made a decent impact on the end-consumer.

      A lot of investors want to cut out the middle-man and be the new middle-man.

  2. The Empress

    OK thanks for the explanation. So the dream of cheaper still lives on. One day it will happen 😔

  3. Bill

    Holy Hell, If they are using Zimbabwe’”Major Rail network!!!”??????? It is doomed to fail! Major! No, Network No!

    1. Toolboy mwana waThompson

      Their 100 tonne digger moves along the rail thats why they need the rail and they are laying the fiber along the rail, the relationship ends there…

    2. Gareth

      Hahahahahahaha dzaramba kushanda apa hahaha

    3. Copper Top

      I’m just hoping that after all these years, the thieves guild has learnt the difference between copper and fibre optics

      1. Fana263

        By now I’m sure they have but with vandals u can’t be sure

  4. Musawenkosi

    Musabrain199@gmail.com

    Hie I’m looking a job for backborn and Also Ask are you guys doing home feed or Arial fiber I have 6 years experience for underground optic fiber and Also do Map Reading and plan changes if there’s a challenge on the ground my suggestion why we dnt Provid network underground to the locations Areas my number is +27617249199