By Jennigay Coetzer – Business Day, 17 May 2011

Half of the undersea cables that were planned to land along the east and west coasts of Africa by 2012 have done so. The latest is the West African Cable System (WACS), which landed in Yzerfontein in the Western Cape in April, is expected to start operating in the first quarter of 2012.

Thylan Chetty, procurement group chairman for WACS says ninety percent of the cable has been laid from Cape Town to Portugal, with additional landing points in Namibia, Angola, DRC, Congo Brazzaville, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Cote de Voire, Cape Verde, and Canary Islands.

He says WACS will also join up with an undersea cable owned by Tata Communications, which will provide an ongoing link from Portugal to the UK. “We are also entering an agreement to lease terrestrial fibre infrastructure from the Tata UK landing point to an internet exchange in London.”

Chetty says these links will be in place when the WACS cable goes live. In the interim, terrestrial fibre cable and equipment still need to be installed and tested at the landing points.

“We have a team that does two or three of these at a time, and has already completed a few,” he says. The Seacom undersea cable system, which went live in July 2009 connects the east cost of Africa from Mtunzini in SA to India and Europe, with landing points in various African countries on the way.

This includes Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and northern Zambia through Tanzania and Malawi. The African Coast to Europe (ACE) cable, which will link SA to France, is scheduled to land at Yzerfontein, western Cape in the third quarter of 2012, with additional landing points in some 20 African countries along the west coast.

This is in addition to Glo1 and MainOne, which landed on the west coast of Africa in the third quarter of 2010. Glo1 links Nigeria and Ghana to Portugal, Spain and the UK, with landing points in Portugal, Ghana, Senegal and other countries on the way.

MainOne links Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Portugal, with onward links to Europe, Asia and the US and a possibility of eventually landing in SA. Then there is The East African Cable System (TEAMS), which went live in June 2009 and  links Kenya to the United Arab Emirates.

“I would have bet on at least one of these cable projects not happening,” says Steve Song, former fellow of the Shuttleworth Foundation, who tracks the progress of undersea cable landings on his website, manypossibilities.net.

Another undersea cable to be recently announced is the South Atlantic Express (SAex) cable system, which is expected to run from Mtunzini in South Africa to Angola to Brazil, and onwards to the US and is expected to be finished by June 2013. SAex is designed to provide 12.8 terabits per second capacity, which is 10 times the capacity of Seacom, if all the fibre strands were lit up, says Song.

Another that is expected to benefit Africa is the India-Middle East-Western Europe (I-ME-WE) cable, which links India with France and has been operational since 2009. “I-ME-WE will provide onward passage for cables such as TEAMS, EASy and probably Seacom as well,” says Song. Then there is the recently announced Seychelles East Africa System (SEAS) cable, which will link the Seychelles with Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania, and is also expected to link up to EASSy and Seacom.

Jennigay Coetzer is a freelance business and technology journalist and she writes regularly for Business Day. She also runs media training and writing skills workshops, and is the author of A Perfect Press Release – or Not?, a guide to writing and distributing effective press releases, an electronic version of which can be downloaded free from her website: www.jennigay.co.za.

Comments are closed.