NEC XON, Juniper Networks power MetroFibre’s cutting-edge fibre network

Jurie Cordier, NEC XON account executive

As the demand for fast and reliable internet surges in Cape Town and elsewhere, infrastructure giant MetroFibre faced a bandwidth crunch that led to resiliency issues. In response to the growing demand, MetroFibre Networx had to rapidly deploy fibre infrastructure in Cape Town’s burgeoning business hubs.

The fibre network operator (FNO) aimed to complete a 100km network ring and route by the end of November 2023. In the initial phase, about 4 000 businesses in the main business hubs of Montague Gardens, Brackenfell, Rondebosch, Paarden Island, Stikland, Epping, Belville, Tyger Valley and the City Bowl would gain access to the MetroFibre network.

MetroFibre sought a solution that could meet customers’ high expectations and support advanced technologies such as Ethernet VPN (EVPN) and segment routing. A more stable and efficient network would also free up engineering resources from service configuration and other manual operations for more strategic work.

To address these challenges, the third-largest fibre-to-the-home provider in South Africa (MetroFibre serves 350 000 homes and businesses), MetroFibre turned to NEC XON in Cape Town. NEC XON implemented Juniper’s ACX line of universal metro routers, providing highly reliable network services to internet service providers, businesses, residential properties and consumers in the region.

Collaborative solution

By leveraging best-of-breed products and solutions, coupled with local spares and maintenance capability, MetroFibre and NEC XON joined forces to address the connectivity challenge. MetroFibre clarified their requirements, and together, they meticulously planned and dimensioned a scalable solution to accommodate future growth.

NEC XON key account executive Jurie Cordier said: “NEC XON played a pivotal role in delivering a cutting-edge DWDM (dense wave-division multiplexing) network in Cape Town, boasting a remarkable capacity of over 28 terabits. This robust infrastructure was specifically designed to cater to the needs of enterprise customers, and it is now owned by MetroFibre. The utilisation of Adtran technology facilitated flexible delivery options for customers, offering a range from 1gig to 200 gig full internet and fibre channel access, contributing to a total network capacity exceeding 24 terabits.”

According to Cordier, the comprehensive approach included the planning and seamless rollout of solutions. “From the initial design phase to after-sales support, the entire system was handed over to MetroFibre for ongoing management. Notably, the network ensures low latency and boasts full end-to-end encryption capabilities.”

MetroFibre head of the wholesale division, Gary Webster, contextualised the significance of this rollout. “The expansion aligns with the escalating demand for connectivity from businesses establishing their operations in Cape Town. This includes multinational corporations, financial services providers, insurers, contact centres, cloud and technology providers, manufacturers and others. Additionally, Cape Town has become a preferred home base for global hyper-scaler cloud providers, further expanding their presence in the region. Leveraging our globally compliant Carrier Ethernet 3.0 network, MetroFibre delivers on the most stringent service level agreements with high resiliency, ultra-low latency and carrier-grade connectivity to meet the sophisticated needs of businesses,” he said.

Real results delivered

NEC XON’s Juniper-based solution delivers the key benefits that MetroFibre needs to provide to its clients: reliability, scalability, security, performance, flexibility and manageability. Networks should be designed with tools and protocols that allow for easy management, diagnostics, and troubleshooting, featuring user-friendly interfaces for network administrators.

A significant differentiator is MetroFibre’s fully diverse network in Cape Town, where routes are not shared with other fibre network operators. This unique approach ensures true route and carrier diversity for our customers, offering greater reliability and resiliency. Unlike FNOs sharing the same route, MetroFibre’s network is not susceptible to potential disruptions experienced by others. In situations where downtime can be more than an inconvenience but potentially catastrophic for businesses, a diverse and redundant fibre connectivity solution becomes paramount, as Webster explained.

He said, “Our MEF 3.0 Carrier Ethernet enterprise offerings are equipped with high service level agreements specifically designed to meet business needs. In contrast, the majority of current fibre deployments in Cape Town are GPON-based and not suited for the demands of large commercial operations. Additionally, all MetroFibre points of presence are configured to handle load shedding beyond stage 8.”

The Carrier Ethernet 3.0 (CE 3.0) programme, endorsed by the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), provides a framework through which service providers and equipment vendors globally demonstrate compliance with recognised MEF Carrier Ethernet service specifications. CE 3.0 standards accelerate the deployment of Carrier Ethernet services (fibre) for businesses by streamlining the assessment of service offerings and equipment, as MEF compliance immediately verifies that the services are fully standardised for global deployment.

Today, with help from NEC XON and Juniper networks, MetroFibre Networx owns and manages South Africa’s first globally compliant Carrier Ethernet 3.0 (CE 3.0) open-access fibre network. This network enhances access, scalability and reliability for clients, connecting over 60 cloud, application, voice and internet service providers with their customers.

NEC XON is a leading African integrator of ICT solutions and part of NEC, a Japanese global company. NEC XON has operated in Africa since 1963 and delivers communications, energy, safety, security and digital solutions. It co-creates social value through innovation to help overcome serious societal challenges. The organisation operates in 54 African countries and has a footprint in 16 of them. Regional headquarters are located in south, East and West Africa. NEC XON is a level 1-certified broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) business. Discover more at