Sunday, February 15, 2009

East Africa: Undersea Fibre-Optic Cable Nears East African Coast

Cedric Lumiti-7 February 2009

The wait for the landing of an undersea fibre-optic cable to boost communication in the region could be coming to fruition as indications point that one arm is almost at the East African coast.

Officials at SEACOM, an undersea cable partly funded by East African countries, have announced that the first portions of the cable are now resting on the seabed of the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.

The 15, 000-kilometre Sea Cable System (SEACOM) is valued at US$650 million.

The cable is 76 percent African owned and is expected to boost bandwidth and communication between the region and the rest of the world.

The cable has been laid from the edge of the South African waters to Mozambique and cable laying is also proceeding in the Red Sea from Egypt towards the coast of Yemen. A third ship is currently being loaded with the remainder of SEACOM's deepwater cable which will be deployed from India towards Africa, where these three cable segments will be joined.

In parallel to the marine installation, SEACOM has made significant strides in land-based construction. The high-performance optical transmission equipment which connects customers to inland terrestrial networks has been installed in the Maputo, Mumbai and Djibouti cable landing stations.

Construction of the cable station in Kenya will be complete early February followed shortly by the Tanzanian and South African stations. Equipment installation in these locations and in Egypt will be complete in April. At each station, SEACOM has taken special precautions to assure the construction April. At each station, SEACOM has taken special precautions to assure the construction activity is consistent with environmental policy and regulations. As an example, in South Africa, SEACOM recently transferred protected plant species from the cable station site to the Umlalazi National Park with the help of KwaZulu Natal Wildlife Rangers.

SEACOM has also been preparing to provide services to customers by June and recruited over ten experienced local telecommunications professionals from India, Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania to operate and maintain the cable stations. They have already been trained at the SEACOM Network Operations Centre in India and are now participating in the testing of the system as it is being installed. A complementary set of personnel is being recruited and will start training in March. These teams will also work with the landing partners' operators in Egypt and Djibouti.

Brian Herlihy, SEACOM President, said: "We have made tremendous progress since our groundbreaking in Mozambique last November and we can now sense a real level of excitement for SEACOM's arrival. Through my travels, I continuously meet people who speak about the many ways they intend to exploit the world of broadband which is about to reach Africa.