West African cable on track for 2010

9 May 2008

The South African government has identified the Broadband Infraco-led African West Coast Cable (AWCC) project as a lead initiative to create a sustainable, competitive international bandwidth market in the country.

This view emerged during a meeting held between the office of the Presidency, Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin and Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri over the weekend.

“The decision is in line with President Thabo Mbeki’s statement in this year’s State of the Nation address to complete the licensing and the operationalisation of Infraco as well as the completion of the process to launch undersea cables in partnership with other governments on the continent and the private sector,” read a statement by the Department of Communications this week.

The AWCC is a 3.8 terabit cable that will stretch from Melkbosstrand, outside Cape Town in the Western Cape province, to the United Kingdom with capacity terminating in London.

The project, which is expected to be functioning in the middle of 2010, will have branching units to at least 10 countries along the west coast of Africa and have a design length of 13 000 kilometres.

Costing about US$600-million (about R4.5-billion), the project has brought together 40 nations and some of the world’s most influential telecommunications players in a joint effort to use state-of-the-art technology in linking more people more efficiently than ever before.

The project will also use revenue generated to spur economic development on Africa as a whole. As it lies between 1 000 and 8 000 metres below the ocean’s surface, the system will also be able to withstand bad weather and vandalism.

“It is anticipated that the system will enter the service by mid 2010 in time to meet the bandwidth requirements for the 2010 Soccer World Cup,” the department said.

The cable will also support South Africa’s science super-projects, such as the Square Kilometer Array Telescope, for which the country is competing against Australia to host it.

The South African government created Broadband Infraco as a new state-owned enterprise to deliver affordable broadband to South Africans on an open access basis.

The AWCC model will own 26% of the cable while a broad base of private sector participants, including incumbent communications operators, will own the remaining 74%.

The project is reported to be well advancing, while a Memorandum of Understanding has been agreed upon with prospective private sector participants.

Source: BuaNews