Solusi University, a Seventh Day Adventist institution, located some 50km outside Bulawayo, has managed against all odds to successfully implement a real broadband network running on fibre backbone.
Since we started our nationwide tour to all Zimbabwean higher and tertiary institutions on a fact-finding mission, it is interesting to note that some local universities and polytechnics are still struggling with basic internet connectivity as students can only imagine such a service could be a reality.
Sitting on a last mile connectivity of two fibre optic companies, Solusi University is currently enjoying a 23mbs broadband speed from Powertel plus a redundant fibre link from TelOne for back-up and last mile purposes.
Speaking to the ICT supervisor, Mr Mduduzi Sibanda, it was interesting to note that Solusi University has already reached their ceiling as their daily broadband usage is now above 20mb/s forcing them to apply bursting technology to supply the ever increasing demand.
“When we started with our first broadband via VSat, we were only getting a meagre 3mb/s, which for a certain time was enough to connect us but this did not even last long as demand for connectivity increased. We were forced to get real broadband connectivity and today we are already requesting an increase above the current 23mb/s,” said Mr Sibanda
Although the Vsat connectivity did not give them much speed, the cost came at a whopping $10 552 for 3mb/s last mile speed. This was a connectivity via a direct Vsat company called Vizada Networks from Europe with not more than 2mb/s upload speed.
Thank God, for fibre, although it still comes costly for installation purposes! This technology has greatly impacted the remotely located institution at 10 times much the speed while they still get the service at almost the same price. As we anticipate more bandwidth price cuts, they may enjoy even more for less.
The total monthly cost for connectivity for the institution has been fluctuating around $10 000, a figure which only came down few years back after they dumped the expensive satellite connectivity via Vsat technology for remotely stationed areas.
Fibre optic in Zimbabwe was initially installed for a few Harare CBD companies, and in less than a year we have seen tremendous, and unbelievable connectivity as the fibre optic companies are now quickly trenching nationwide to hook up the country on the fastest last mile option available.
For Solusi University, the journey they traversed was not a smooth one. Some five years ago, the only means of connectivity available to them was a wireless connection, probably from their nearest town which is Figtree located some 27km away from them as they linger much closer to Botswana than any Zimbabwean town or city.
They initially tried an Ultra High Frequency (UHF ) broadband frequency by TelOne beaming from Plumtree, a service which initially proved to be successful, was quickly made redundant by high bandwidth demands as the need for connectivity always grows with the available solutions.
They also complained that though on paper they had signed up for higher speeds which could go as much as 7mbs using the unit, they faced some bandwidth contention issues which greatly compromised their last mile speeds as their link was shared with other users.
Today Solusi University has unbelievably managed to wire the whole institution with strategic blocks receiving fibre optic as a last mile, a move they implemented over local wi-fi problems.