East coast cable competition
Coming soon: international bandwidth
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.
Challenge for Seacom