Q&A: Willem Marais, Group Managing Executive, Liquid Telecom

Q&A: Willem Marais, Group Managing Executive, Liquid Telecom

Willem Marais, group managing executive of Liquid Telecom and CEO of Liquid Telecom South Africa answers some key questions on the African market.

What have been the highlights and key developments for your company in the region in the past year?

It has been a busy and important 12 months for Liquid Telecom.

We have built and launched our fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) service in Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This provides up to 100Mbps internet access to households and small and medium enterprises, the fastest broadband speeds in Africa - and faster than many parts of Europe and the US receive.

This is a breakthrough service in sub-Saharan Africa offering speeds which were until now reserved for the largest multinationals.

We are also building a new 10,000km subsea cable covering linking Africa to Europe, which is called Liquid Sea. This will offer speeds of 20-30Tbps that are up to 10 times the capacity of existing submarine cables in the region, and will further help remove bottlenecks. By owning our own sea cable we can provide higher and guaranteed SLAs to our customers.

What are the main challenges of operating in the African market and how are you looking to tackle those challenges over the next period?

Deploying long distance fibre routes across Africa presents its own unique challenge, and we are continuously exploring new ways to collaborate with our carrier partners to help address this.

In November 2015, for example, Liquid Telecom completed a long distance fibre route connecting Polokwane and Centurion in South Africa.

The route provides MTN Group and other anchor tenants with almost unlimited capacity on a national basis, enabling access to two of South Africa’s major hubs. As an anchor tenant, MTN Group has the advantage of owning dark fibre on the route, which now forms part of its wider transmission network across South Africa.

Furthermore, Liquid Telecom is currently in the process of deploying another long distance fibre route with MTN as anchor tenant. The 1037km route will stretch fro¬m Polokwane east and southwards all the way to Ladysmith in the Uthukela District of KwaZulu-Natal, and is expected to take 24 months to complete. The first phase of the project is due for completion in 2016.

What are your strategic priorities as well as expansion plans for the region in 2017?

We will continue to expand our fibre network throughout the region. In June 2016, we announced that we have entered into an agreement to acquire South African communications network operator Neotel.

The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is transformative and will create the largest pan-African broadband network. Through a single access point, businesses across Africa will be able to access 40 000km of cross-border, metro and access fibre networks. These currently span 12 countries from South Africa to Kenya, with further expansion planned.

What does your organisation hope to achieve by attending Capacity Africa 2016?

As platinum sponsor of the event, Liquid Telecom is looking forward to another year of networking and lively debate at the conference sessions.

We’re excited to have been shortlisted in three categories at the new Africa Carrier Awards, including Best East African Wholesale Carrier, Best Southern African Wholesale Carrier and Best Marketing Campaign.

To learn more about the company, please come meet us at stand 39 throughout Capacity Africa, or visit www.liquidtelecom.com

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