Neotel to build E Africa cable

8 August 2007

Neotel, South Africa’s second landline operator, has signed an agreement to land a private-equity funded fibre optic submarine cable locally that will connect south and east Africa to Europe and India by early 2009.

In a statement issued this week, Neotel states that it has agreed to a partnership with private submarine cable operator Seacom to land the SEA cable system in South Africa, to cater for growing local bandwidth demand.

According to the Neotel, the partnership will enable it to own the cable landing station and all facilities within South African territory. It will operate these facilities on an open basis to make bandwidth more affordable for local users and further encourage South African international bandwidth demand.

“Neotel is committed to bringing in a new era in the telecoms industry of South Africa, and we aim to reduce the cost of doing business in the country through better value-for-money, leading edge, telecoms products,” said Neotel managing director Ajay Pandey.

“A key enabler to this objective is the availability of multiple international routes connecting South Africa to the rest of the globe.”

The agreement includes the construction of a backhaul cable from the landing site to Johannesburg, giving bandwidth users direct access to the submarine cable from South Africa’s financial hub.

The 13 000km SEA cable system will connect South Africa to Europe and India, with the route passing along the east coast of Africa and through the Red Sea before terminating in Italy. In addition, it will land in Mozambique, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya and UAE along the route.

The system has a design capability of 1.28 terabits, in order to cope with expected demand in 2010 and beyond.

“The expected future demand for bandwidth is expected to grow exponentially, as file sharing and streaming video applications become accessible to the retail user at an affordable price”, said Seacom president Brian Herlihy.

“International submarine fibre optic cables are a necessary complement for the emerging last mile technologies such as 3G, WiMAX and fibre to the home, removing the international capacity bottleneck that exists in the region today.”

At the same time, Neotel states it is committed to its participation in the East Africa Submarine System (EASSy), while the company also announced that it would partner with state-owned Infraco to build a second submarine fibre optic cable along Africa’s west coast.

Addressing the media following a Cabinet meeting last week, President Thabo Mbeki said that the proposed west coast cable could eventually have two branches, connecting South Africa with the United Kingdom and Brazil.

Pandey welcomed the new developments, stating that multiple options for international connectivity from South Africa, together with competitive pricing would stimulate further demand.

“The 2010 Fifa World Cup is likely to see unprecedented demand for international bandwidth for its HDTV broadcasting requirement alone, and with various other projects such as the South African National Research and Education Network and Square Kilometre Array still in the pipeline, we believe that a strong business case exists for the SEA cable system”, Pandey states. reporter

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