Liquid Telecom - []

Liquid Telecom has invested more than R1 billion into expanding its datacentre facilities in Johannesburg and Cape Town to support the rising demand for cloud-based services.

The pan-African telecoms group, in which Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa’s Econet Global owns the majority stake, made the announcement yesterday in Midrand, saying the data centres are carrier-neutral and open-access.

The announcement comes a year after Liquid Telecom acquired Neotel for R6.55 billion.

Speaking to ITWeb, Ben Roberts, Group chief technology and innovation officer for Liquid Telecom, said this is the biggest investment the company has made into Africa since the acquisition. According to Roberts, about a billion rand was committed into the project and R750 million has been put into the expansion so far.

The Johannesburg data centre now offers over 3 000 square metres of space for data servers with a total power capacity of 7 megawatts, while the Cape Town data centre provides 1 800 square metres of rack space with 5.5 megawatts of power.

Liquid Telecom is planning further expansion for both the Johannesburg and Cape Town data centres. The company aims to increase space at the facilities by five-fold over the next five years.

“SA has emerged as a connectivity hub, particularly Cape Town and Johannesburg for the whole of the Sub-Saharan African region. Previously, the adoption of cloud has been slower in Africa than the rest of the world, due to reliability and cost of connectivity.

“These data costs have come down dramatically in the last two years as more and more connectivity has come from subsea cables and fibre networks being deployed across Africa.

“So the connectivity is there, so that means to enhance the user connectivity we need to have data centres.” Also, with hyperscale cloud providers looking into Africa to invest, it seemed like an opportune time for Liquid Telecom to invest in data centres, said Roberts.

Roberts also pointed out the two data centres locations were chosen due to the good regulatory framework that exists in South Africa. “SA is about to pass the data protection act [POPI], so these places [Johannesburg and Cape Town], are seen as the place to store businesses’ data.”

Roberts noted business will benefit from having their data stored close to them – there is less latency when transferring big data.

He said due to the demand of localisation of data by businesses and government, Liquid Telecom is looking to expand its data centre facilities into other African countries and locations in SA. The company is particularly looking into countries were Liquid Telecom has a data network, said Roberts.

Liquid Telecom has built over 50 000km of fibre connecting nine countries in Africa, and serves over 113 000 enterprise, carrier and retail customers.

“Anywhere our fibre network is at the moment, we are looking to open data centres, we are just covering East and Central Africa down to South Africa. We are not yet present in West Africa but we wouldn’t rule it out. It just becomes a point of when is the market big enough, to make it worthwhile making the investments.”

Liquid Telecom is also currently expanding its data centre facility in Nairobi, Kenya. Also, in the first half of 2018, the company says it will be able to offer direct private connections to Azure data centres. Microsoft announced last year it will roll out data centres in SA