20 April 2011
The much-anticipated West Africa Cable System (WACS) linking southern Africa and Europe arrived at Yzerfontein in the Western Cape on Tuesday, promising to double South Africa’s broadband capacity.
“The 14 000km long fibre optic submarine cable system will effectively raise South Africa’s current broadband capacity by over 500 Gigabits per second (Gbps),” Telkom said in a statement.
“Spanning the west coast of Africa and terminating in the United Kingdom, WACS will enable seamless connectivity into the rest of Europe and America.”
In addition to complementing existing high-bandwidth cable systems in the region, as well as supplying first-time fibre connectivity to several west African countries, WACS will provide much-needed diversity for large-volume broadband traffic from South Africa to Europe.
The US$650-million submarine cable, which has been under construction since 2009, is an initiative of the WACS Consortium, whose South African members consist of Broadband Infraco, MTN, Telkom, Neotel and Vodacom.
The cable also boasts 15 established terminal stations en route, and will reduce the cost to connect the west coast of Africa into the high-speed global telecommunications network for years to come.
It is designed to support present and future internet, e-commerce, data, video and voice services while also making use of dense wavelengths division multiplexing (DWDM) technology, which enables bi-directional communications over one strand of fibre as well as multiplication of capacity.
“Its design of 4 fibre pair and 128 wavelength technology make WACS the largest cable system to ever land in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Angus Hay of Neotel, co-chair of the WACS management committee. “WACS will meet the demand for capacity well into the first quarter of the 21st century.”
Telkom’s Casper Chihaka said that various reasons had led to the choice of Yzerfontein as landing point for WACS and to allocating the responsibility to land the cable in South Africa to Telkom.
“All submarine cables that enter South Africa are located at either Melkbosstrand or Mtunzini, thus effectively two international fibre gateways. Events such as earthquakes or even a large ship dragging its anchor have seen several cables being cut,” Chihaka said.
“South Africa needs a third international fibre gateway to reduce the risk of complete isolation from the rest of the world.”