The next undersea cable planning to steal our hearts is the East African Submarine Cable System. The project is expected to be completed by the end of June 2010. EASSy is well under way with 40% of the cable construction already been completed.
EASSy is a consortium of 27 operators building an open access international fibre-optic submarine cable, comprising Botswana Telecommunications Corporation, Bharti, BT, Comoros Telecom, Etisalat, Neotel South Africa, France Telecom, Mauritius Telecom, MTN International, Saudi Telecom, and Sudan Telecom.
Similar to Seacom, EASSy will travel along the East cost of Africa with 9 cable landing stations, namely, Port Sudan, Djibouti, Mogadishu, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, Moroni (in Comoros), Toliary (in Madagascar), Maputo, and Mtunzini (where Seacom will also be landing).
At first glance, EASSy will only be connecting African countries together. What many of you may not know is that EASSy will also connect to the Europe India Gateway Submarine Cable System. The EIG will stretch from the UK to France, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Monaco, Libya, Egypt, Djibouti, the United Arab Emirates and, of course, India.
The cable’s purpose is to provide a central linking point for other cable systems already in the pipeline, such as Eassy and the West African Cable System (WACS). EIG will be the first direct, high bandwidth, fibre optic cable connecting United Kingdom to India. EIG will have a capacity of 3.84 terabits per second and has upgradeable transmission facilities to provide for future bandwidth growth.
All this bandwidth would be useless without a terrestrial network connecting the cables to actual end users and businesses. Last month Cameroon’s incumbent Camtel announced that it would build a 5,600km national fibre backbone, with links to Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, and Equatorial Guinea. The World Bank will be providing financial assistance for these links as well, also funding links to Chad, Central African Republic, and DRC.
Orange Madagascar announced that it had completed the Lion cable project. The 1,800km cable offers 1.3 Tbps, connecting Madagascar, Reunion, and Maritius. The cable should cut existing tariffs by five times.
Here in the good ol’ RSA, we also have progress. Dark Fibre Africa has recently launched its 800km fibre network in collaboration with Cisco Systems. Dark Fibre Africa is not a service provider, though. It owns, builds, maintains, secures, and monitors the dark fibre network, leasing out the infrastructure. Any businesses wanting to make use of the DFA network will need to light the fibre themselves, meaning they will need to purchase the necessary equipment to be able to connect to DFA’s network.
In January, Neotel announced it would partner with MTN to build a 5,000km national network linking major urban centres with Seacom, with the first leg of the network connecting Johannesburg to Durban scheduled to be completed before the end of the year.
Neotel already has 2000- 3000km of fibre in the metro areas of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town. The financial burden of the long-haul network is expected to be R2-billion on cabling alone(transmission equipment will bring the cost to R2.5-billion), a cost that Neotel will share with MTN and Vodacom.