East coast ca­ble com­pe­ti­tion

Com­ing soon: in­ter­na­tional band­width

Finweek English Edition - - Techtrends -

IN­STAL­LA­TION HAS BE­GUN on the East African Sub­ma­rine Ca­ble (Eassy) that will run up the east coast of Africa from South Africa to Su­dan. The ca­ble is sched­uled for com­ple­tion in June next year. Eassy will be the next un­der­sea ca­ble to land in South Africa af­ter Sea­com was com­pleted ear­lier this year, bol­ster­ing com­pe­ti­tion in in­ter­na­tional band­width pro­vi­sion­ing to SA and other coun­tries on the con­ti­nent’s east coast.

Eassy rep­re­sents an in­ter­na­tional con­sor­tium of 27 op­er­a­tors that have in­vested in the project, in­clud­ing SA’s Telkom, Vo­da­com, MTN and Neo­tel.

An­gus Hay, ex­ec­u­tive head of tech­nol­ogy at Neo­tel, says: “Our par­tic­i­pa­tion in the in­ter­na­tional ca­bles forms a crit­i­cal part of our strat­egy to pro­vide South Africans with ac­cess to true broad­band and to ul­ti­mately con­nect them to the rest of the world.”

Hay added the ca­ble for Eassy has been shipped from the Al­ca­tel-Lu­cent fac­tory in Calais, France, and is al­ready be­ing loaded on a ship ahead of be­ing in­stalled over com­ing weeks.

Telkom was the sole provider of in­ter­na­tional band­width via un­der­sea ca­bles un­til the 1.3Tbps Sea­com ca­ble landed in mid-2009. Telkom, while in­vested in Eassy, isn’t par­tic­i­pat­ing in Sea­com. Telkom re­cently up­graded the ca­pac­ity of its SAT3 and SAFE ca­ble sys­tem and crit­i­cised ca­bles such as Sea­com for not hav­ing failover ca­pa­bil­ity should faults oc­cur.

Sea­com CEO Brian Her­lihy says failover was in­deed a chal­lenge for Sea­com, al­though the ca­ble is buried be­neath the ocean floor, un­like Telkom’s ca­bles, and is there­fore less vul­ner­a­ble to dam­age. “Ca­ble sys­tems typ­i­cally work to­gether,” says Her­lihy. “For ex­am­ple, we’re talk­ing to Teams [the East African Marine Sys­tem Ca­ble] in Kenya.”

Her­lihy says tele­coms providers that buy band­width on un­der­sea ca­bles gen­er­ally have part­ner­ships with more than just one net­work provider, cre­at­ing their own failover ca­pa­bil­ity.

Sea­com ex­hib­ited at Nel­son Man­dela Square in Jo­han­nes­burg last week and said its “Broad­band Ex­pe­ri­ence” is show­ing South Africans what real broad­band is like. Var­i­ous part­ners of Sea­com, in­clud­ing Cisco, were also at the dis­play.

For­mer di­rec­tor-gen­eral of SA’s Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Depart­ment and cur­rent chair­man of tele­coms group Con­ver­gence Part­ners, Andile Ng­caba, spoke at the event’s launch, say­ing Africa needed to be con­nected to share it­self with the world. “Sea­com will sat­isfy some of that need but more is re­quired,” Ng­caba said. “Peo­ple around the world are looking for­ward to see­ing African con­tent on the In­ter­net. There’s never go­ing to be enough band­width, in my view, in my life­time.”

Ng­caba said it was hard to un­der­stand the enor­mity of the eco­nomic and so­cial im­pact broad­band will have, as SA hasn’t ex­pe­ri­enced it in the past.

BRIAN HER­LIHY

Chal­lenge for Sea­com

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