Addis Ababa: A long-expected fibre-optic cable linking southern and eastern Africa to global telecommunications networks via India and Europe has gone live with high expectations it will lower the cost of telecommunications in Africa. Its switch-on date was delayed for a month after threats by Somali pirates along the Indian Ocean route from India to Kenya disrupted cable installation plans.
The cable has simultaneously launched in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa and Uganda on July 23. It is widely seen to be opening up opportunities for governments and business to use the network as a platform to compete globally and drive economic growth.
Backhauls linking Johannesburg, Nairobi, and Kampala with coastal landing stations have also been established. Additionally, SEACOM, the fibre-optic company behind the operation, is working with national partners to commission the final link to Kigali, Rwanda, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The US$600 million cable has direct connections to India and from India to Europe, making it the first cable to hook east and southern Africa to India and Europe. The 17,000 kilometer cable has a capacity of transmitting data amounting to 1.28 terrabytes per second.
According to reports, SEACOM management is marking the launch of the cable with a one gigabytes per second live international connection and live high-definition video feed over an IP network to interconnect representatives and dignitaries across the five African countries.
The Common market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya said that most countries in the Comesa region will connect to the cable for broadband services.
"In fact [in the] Comesa region, we are constructing a fiber cable called the Lower Indian Ocean Network under the Indian Ocean that will connect to the SEACOM cable for broadband services to our member countries," Ngwenya said.
Many other countries in the Comesa region, Ngwenya said, are developing inland cables that will soon be connected to the SEACOM cable.
Comesa is a regional economic bloc, which has more than 19 member countries including Kenya, Mozambique, Zambia, Ethiopia Rwanda and Uganda, and is chartered to accelerate the region's economy through improved communication and business.
Broadband connectivity means the region will have no problems linking to medical and education institutions in India for telemedicine and tele-education, Ngwenya said.
The SEACOM cable, which is privately funded and three-quarters African owned, is expected to provide bandwidth on an open access basis, allowing all operators to have equal access to the cable.
African countries currently rely on expensive and slow satellite connection for telephones and the Internet.