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Undersea cable to create sustainable competitive market

by Nthambeleni Gabara
on 08 May 2008
BuaNews Online
BuaNews Online

Government has identified the Broadband Infraco-led African West Coast Cable (AWCC) project as a lead initiative to create a sustainable competitive international bandwidth market in the country.

This emerged during the meeting held between the Presidency, Public Enterprise Minister, Alec Erwin and Communications Minister, Dr Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri over the weekend.

The decision is in line with President Thabo Mbeki's State of the Nation Address to complete the licensing and the operationalisation of Infraco as well as the completion of the process to launch the undersea cables in partnership with the private sector and other governments on the continent.

The AWCC is a 3 840 Gigabit super cable which will stretch from the Western Cape to the United Kingdom with capacity terminating in London.

The project which is expected to be functioning in the middle of 2010 will have branching units to at least 10 countries along the West Coast of Africa at a design length of 13 000km.

"It is anticipated that the system will enter the service by mid 2010 in time to meet the bandwidth requirements for the 2010 Soccer World Cup," the Ministry of Communications said.

The cable will also support South Africa's science super-projects such as the Square Kilometer Array Telescope for which the country is competing against Australia to host it.

Costing about 600 million US dollars, the project has brought together 40 nations and some of the world's most influential telecommunications players in a joint effort to use state-of-the-art technology in linking more people more efficiently than ever before.

The project will also use revenue generated to spur economic development on Africa as a whole.

Lying between 1 000 and 8 000 metres below the ocean's surface, the system will be able to withstand bad weather and vandalism.

Broadband Infraco was created by government as a new state-owned enterprise to execute interventions that deliver affordable broadband to South Africans on an open access basis.

The AWCC model will own 26 percent of the cable while the remaining 74 percent will be owned by a broad base of private sector participants, including incumbent communications operators.

The project is reported to be well advancing, while a Memorandum of Understanding has been agreed upon with prospective private sector participants.

Infraco will announce a selected supplier and enter formal contract negotiations.

Government also reiterates its commitment to continue working with other governments on the continent and interested partners in the Africa-wide UHURUnet NEPAD-led initiative.

The initiative will also play a central role in reducing the cost of communications at the same time increasing connectivity in Africa.

Both Dr Matsepe-Casaburri and Mr Erwin are expected to elaborate on these matters during the course of this week. - BuaNews

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