Interview: Understanding The Fibre Trenching Process in Zimbabwe

By Toneo Tonderai Rutsito

We have seen tremendous growth and the opening of access to the high speed fibre network. This is a surely commendable move to the growth of technology in Zimbabwe as players help in bridging the technological divide. The growth of fibre networks in Zimbabwe will definitely impact positively in the economic growth of the country.

Liquid Telecom is Africa`s largest fibre laying company and also the biggest private player in Zimbabwe.

A lot of trenching has been going on in Zimbabwe and we are particularly worried about regulations, local authorities’ bylaws with city council water pipes, ZESA electric cables and public safety due to the natural risks created by such trenching activities.

TechnoMag (TM) caught up with Liquid Telecom Zimbabwe (LTZ) to get more facts on how they are trenching? What are the challenges associated with such activities? How do they interrelate with relevant authorities and other service providers?

TM: Who determines the route you use to trench inthe CBD?

LTZ: The choice of the route is determined by the market requirements. The Liquid Telecom planning team also look at the route based on the terrain, cost effectiveness, future prospects along the route, perceived market requirements and local council requirements.

Fibre laying trenching at Homes 2

TM: What are the requirements for you to trench from the City of Harare?

LTZ: The City of Harare has set down specifications that we need to meet on every route. Some of the requirements are detailed maps showing the route to be followed, any other service provider maps inclusive of the ZESA cables in the area and other service providers’ infrastructure such as TelOne cables.


TM: How much time does it take for a route to be authorized before actual trenching takes place?

LTZ: On average permissions will take two weeks from date of submission. Trenching only starts after the wayleaves and all attendant permissions have been granted.


TM: Do you carry out the trenching services alone as a private entity or do you do so in supervision of third parties or any monitoring body?

LTZ: Liquid Telecom engages subcontractors who do the civil works. This has enabled huge employment opportunities for local companies. Our technical team supervises and monitors the quality of work done by all subcontractors as per our specification. The local authorities and other operators will also monitor Liquid operations in relation to their infrastructure and permissions granted.


TM: Since you are trenching in obviously uncertain grounds, what happens when you hit, destroy water pipes and any other infrastructure?

LTZ: We always engage other utility operators prior to commencement of our works. Prior to the trenching, Liquid Telecom engages ZESA, TelOne and other providers to get maps showing their infrastructure presence. However, in the rare and unfortunate disturbance of any servitude we engage the owners for service reinstatements.  There is reciprocity in such instances as other players can also affect our infrastructure.


TM: Do you get charged to trench around CBD by the city of Harare?

LTZ: There is generally a once off fee for way leaves granted by a lot of councils or local authorities.


TM: How deep can your trenches go and how far away from buildings or durawalls in residential areas?

LTZ: Our trenches are generally at least 500mm to 3m from the property boundaries. The trenches are 300mm wide with a depth of 500mm in residential areas.


TM: Besides the city of Harare, there are underground high voltage ZESA cables how do you go about in such circumstances?

LTZ: We get map clearances from ZESA before trenching begins and utmost care is given to their infrastructure. In the rare instance of any disturbances to the cables, Liquid Telecom will engage ZESA for reinstatements at our expense. As part of our extra due diligence we also use underground scanners to detect any underground services before trenching.


TM: We are fully aware that there are areas where you are trenching in parallel with the state run, TelOne.How is this operationally possible, without interfering or damaging their infrastructure?

LTZ: We do communicate regularly with all providers and the requisite clearances are obtained in advance all in a bid not to disturb any services as indicated before.


TM: Do you have any previous issues of infrastructure damage or conflicts with TelOne?

LTZ: No, there are no infrastructure damages or conflict with TelOne. We always engage professionally with TelOne and other players.


TM: What is the current total distance covered trenching for customer connections?

LTZ:Liquid Telecom has trenched over 5,500km countrywide and 17000km in total for Africa.

liquid telecom

TM: How far have you covered with your FTTH?

LTZ: Fibre to the home is available in Milton Park, Upper Avenues, CBD, Kensington, Belgravia, Borrowdale Brooke, Mount Pleasant, Borrowdale East and West, Alex Park, Vainona, Newlands. Eastlea, Highlands and Gunhill will be available soon.


TM: What is the plan for high density suburbs areas in terms of connectivity?

LTZ: We have these areas within our business case. With our fibre network, microwave, WiMax and satellite transmission technologies we can connect anywhere in Zimbabwe both on land and over water bodies.

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