Subsea cable set to improve internet connectivity in Africa

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Engineers have laid the final section of a subsea cable that stretches from London to the Western Cape and is promised to improve internet connectivity for parts of Africa.

The 14,000km West Africa Cable System (WACS) will connect around 12 countries in all — including Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo and Togo — which have never had direct access to a submarine communications cable.

The WACS is said to guarantee a total capacity of 5.12tbit/sec and a policy of ‘open access’ to increase competition and encourage more widespread internet use, particularly in rural areas. Only about 10 per cent of Africans are web users, compared with 65 per cent of Europeans.

Africa’s fibre-optic connections have improved in the past few years with the introduction of several subsea cables, including the SAT-3, SAFE SEACOM and EASSy projects. However, the WACS will have a greater capacity than all these combined when it comes online in 2012.

The WACS is controlled by a consortium of companies including Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco, Cable & Wireless, Congo Telecom, MTN, Office Congolais des Postes et Télécommunications, Portugal Telecom/Cabo Verde Telecom, Tata Communications/Neotel, Telecom Namibia, Telkom, Togo Telecom and Vodacom.

At the UK end of the cable, Cable & Wireless is maintaining the point of presence and also chairs the WACS management committee. The other end of the cable reached Yzerfontein on the Western Cape of South Africa on Tuesday.

Dr Andrew Shaw, chief executive officer of Broadband Infraco, said: ’The African continent still yearns for affordable, higher-speed connectivity. Meeting the needs for increased capacity along the cable route, this network will enable the landing countries to be served by a system offering significant capacity and lowering the cost of broadband in support of economic growth and innovative applications such as e-education and e-health that can positively affect people’s lives.’