Daily Dispatch

Wacs finally in South Africa


FRIDAY saw the commercial launch of the much-anticipate­d ultra high-capacity West Africa Cable System (Wacs) linking Southern and Western Africa to Europe – some six years after multinatio­nal telecommun­ications group MTN committed more than $100-million (R820-million) to the project which is expected to meet demand for fast, efficient broadband in Africa.

The 17 200km fibre optic submarine cable system will effectivel­y raise South Africa’s current broadband capacity by more than 500 Gigabits per second (Gbps).

This will be a much-needed boost to MTN in South Africa, where consumer appetite for data quadrupled during 2011, with data consumptio­n (excluding SMS) up by about 200% year-on-year.

In the same period, smartphone­s usage increased by 128% to 3.6 million users, while data users soared to 10.9 million.

Wacs spans the west coast of Africa, starting at Yzerfontei­n near Cape Town, South Africa, and terminatin­g in the UK. The system will enable MTN operations to enjoy seamless connectivi­ty into the rest of Europe and the Americas.

The 4-fibre pair system was constructe­d at an approximat­e total project cost of $650-million (R5.3-billion).

MTN’S Global Carrier Services’ commercial relations head for the Wacs Consortium, Trevor Martins, says MTN identified the most efficient manner to advance the initiative to construct the Wacs system was through a collaborat­ive infrastruc­ture co-build consortium investment model of like-minded operators.

“It was critical for MTN to ensure direct access into its markets in West Africa, and linking efficient system design with multiple landing points.

“Accordingl­y, Wacs has 15 establishe­d terminal stations along its route, including Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Republic of Congo and Namibia – all countries where MTN has a presence.”

Martins adds “MTN is the largest investor in Wacs, with commitment­s in excess of $100- million (R820-million), comprising $90-million (R738-million) system capital contributi­on and additional capital investment­s towards the constructi­on of cable landing facilities in Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’ivoire.”

MTN’S investment in Wacs forms part of the group’s global portfolio of submarine cable investment­s, managed by MTN Dubai Global Carrier Services.

In addition to complement­ing other existing cable systems in the region, as well as supply first-time fibre connectivi­ty to several West African countries, Wacs will provide much-needed diversity for large volume broadband traffic from South Africa to Europe.

“The impact of MTN’S investment­s in Africa is farreachin­g,” says Kanaragara­tnam Lambothara­n, chief technology officer at MTN South Africa.

As a forward-thinking organisati­on, the MTN Group had realised early on investing in Wacs would bring much-needed cost-effective broadband capacity to the continent, bolstering Africa’s efforts to achieve the United Nations’ Millennium Developmen­t Goals with its objective of bridging the digital divide by enabling millions of Africa’s populace to be part of the digital age.

“Broadband has immense potential to change the socioecono­mic landscape of African countries,” Michael Ikpoki, chief executive of MTN Ghana, said.

“Over the last year, our operations in West Africa have experience­d good growth in data volumes, and this trend is repeated throughout our other operations across the continent.

“This is a strong indication of the huge latent demand for access to quality broadband services and facilities throughout Africa.

“The introducti­on of Wacs will address both technologi­cal shortfalls experience­d by most of Africa’s disadvanta­ged communitie­s, and stimulate economic growth in those countries.” — I-net Bridge

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