Explaining submarine system terminology – Part 1

Recent discussions on fibre-optic transmission systems in Africa, particularly submarine systems,  have left me with the feeling that a good deal of confusion exists over the usage of the term ‘capacity’. This post attempts to provide some clarity…

Capacity is a measure of the traffic-carrying capability of a transmission system, and is normally quantified in multiples of bits per second (bps):

  • kbps (thousands of bits per second)
  • Mbps (millions of bits per second)
  • Gbps (billions of bits per second)
  • Tbps (trillions of bits per second)

It may be used in a variety of ways to describe transmission systems, including:

Design capacity – the maximum traffic-carrying capability of the system if it were fully equipped using today’s  technology

Lit capacitythe actual traffic-carrying capability of the system today, based on what has been equipped to date

Purchased capacity – the amount of traffic-carry capability that has been sold to customers

Used capacity – the amount of traffic actually being carried on the system

Fibre-optics and associated technologies evolve very rapidly, with manufacturers and equipment vendors continually incorporating the latest developments into their products. One reason why submarine systems are never fully equipped at launch is that this allows their owners to take advantage of the latest developments throughout the lifetime of the system (typically 25 years). Most of the fibre will remain ‘dark’ (i.e. not immediately usable), until it is ‘lit’ using appropriate equipment within the landing stations.

Submarine owners  only light sufficient capacity to meet their near-term requirements – what they will use themselves + what they have sold to other customers (the purchased capacity) + what they expect to sell in the short-term. As this initial lit capacity starts to fill up, they go back to the market to evaluate and procure the very latest technology to support the next ‘upgrade’, lighting more capacity.

At launch in July 2010, the initial design capacity of WIOCC’s EASSy system was 1.4Tbps. Since then, developments in Alcatel Lucent’s product offerings – including a migration from 10Gbps to 40Gbps technology – have resulted in the design capacity growing to 3.84Tbps then 4.72Tbps. With the rapid growth in purchased capacity, EASSy’s initial lit capacity of 30Gbps will be increased significantly with an upgrade later this year.

Part 2 in the series will explore ways to create resilience in submarine systems.


WIOCC appoints COO – Ryan Sher


WIOCC has appointed Ryan Sher as its Chief Operating Officer (COO).

Formerly Chief Technical Officer at WIOCC, Ryan’s expanded role reflects the success the organisation has enjoyed since July 2010 – when the 4.72Tbps, 10,000km, EASSy submarine fibre-optic cable went live. Capacity sales on EASSy have outstripped initial forecasts and Ryan will oversee the 2011 system upgrade, which will utilise the latest 40Gbps wavelength technology.

Ryan reports to WIOCC CEO Chris Wood, who commented: “Ryan’s industry knowledge, technical expertise and business acumen make him the ideal person to direct the operations of WIOCC in the exciting times that lie ahead. He will play a key role in the development and delivery of WIOCC’s reliable, high-speed, high-capacity connectivity solutions for WIOCC’s customers – both internationally and within Africa.”

As COO, Ryan is responsible for developing and managing all WIOCC product offerings, as well as pre-sales support & bid management, strategic deals, operations, provisioning, OSS/BSS, IT, procurement and supplier management. He also manages all technical aspects of WIOCC’s relationship with the EASSy consortium and is Chairman of the EASSy Technical Working Group, and Co-Chairman of the Procurement Group and the Operations & Maintenance Sub-Committee.

Prior to joining WIOCC in 2009, Ryan held senior roles with Reliance Globalcom (previously FLAG Telecom). He holds an MBA from the London Business Schooland a degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Meet WIOCC in May at ITW & Satcom Africa

Following our successful representation at East Africa Com last month, WIOCC will be participating in two events during May.

We will be sending a delegation to Washington DC, USA for ITW ’11. Chris Wood (CEO), Ryan Sher (COO), Mike Last (Director, Marketing & International Business Development) and Winnie Karisa (Marketing) will man the WIOCC stand and meet with customers, partners, etc. from 23rd – 25th May. Chris will also be participating in the Africa panel session on Tuesday 24th May (11:00 to 12:30).

The WIOCC stand will also be at Satcom Africa in Johannesburg, S. Africa later in the month (30th May to 2nd June), where it will be manned by Hitesh Desai and Marcel Bhatti from our S. Africa office.

Please come along to the stand to meet our representatives, or send a mail to info@wiocc.net to set up a meeting.

WIOCC at East Africa Com ’11

This week’s 7th annual East Africa Com congress in Nairobi, Kenya, offered an insightful picture of the many opportunities in the region’s changing telecommunications markets. A diverse gathering of telecommunications industry thought leaders shared their expertise and insights on the key opportunities in the market. The mood was enthusiastic and positive about growth opportunities for an economy that will benefit from further competition and investment going forwards.

Representatives included mobile, fixed, satellite and WiMAX operators, Carriers, ISPs, MVNOs, regulators, ministers, solutions and technology providers, investors and consultants, ensuring a truly 360 degree perspective of the market. Attendees pooled their different perspectives, ideas and experiences to set strategies around convergence, broadband, bandwidth, LTE, value added services, telecoms fraud and connecting rural areas.

Conference discussions were led by a panel of 45+ speakers representing leaders of the region’s most dynamic operators including Norman Moyo, CEO of WIOCC shareholder Zantel, who spoke on ‘strategies to leverage greater network capacity & drive access to communications’. Other WIOCC shareholders present at the event included Onatel Burundi, Botswana Telecom, Dalkom Somalia and Djibouti Telecom.

Gillian Koech (WIOCC) & Nemaisa Kiereini (Telkom Orange) greet visitors to the stand

Over the two days, the event attracted over 80 visitors to the WIOCC/TKL booth, where our enthusiastic team including Chris Wood (WIOCC CEO), Ryan Sher(WIOCC COO), James Wekesa (WIOCC CCO), Winnie Karisa (PA to CEO & Marketing), and Gillian Koech (Marketing), together with Nemaisa Kiereini from Telkom Orange, met with representatives from a variety African and international operators.

WIOCC will be attending further events over the coming months, including Satcom Africa, ITW and Submarine Networks World Africa. Please email us at info@wiocc.net with your questions, requirements or to arrange a meeting at any of these events.

Zambia turns to Internet to fight climate change

Another interesting article has reached my in-box – this time about rural application of the internet in Africa…

Farmers will need access to up-to-the-minute information to adapt effectively to climate change, experts say, but in rural Zambia few have access to the Internet.

A southern African communication group hopes to change that by rolling out rural “telecentres” that will act as one-stop shops for communications services in rural areas, offering Internet access, photocopying, credit for mobile phones and other services.

Zambia, like many southern African nations, is seeing increasing prolonged dry seasons and short periods of heavy rainfall, changes believed linked to climate shifts. With most of the country’s population reliant on small-scale farming for a living, the changes are forcing farmers to rethink the way they operate.

Whether it’s used to look up drought-resistant crops, determine which crops to plant after each harvest to boost nutrients in the soil, or figure out how to retain water in the soil to prepare for dry spells, the Internet has the potential to provide local communities with help in changing practices. It also allows two-way communication, letting farmers ask questions and pass on their own techniques, rather than simply absorbing information.

Reliable information about current market prices and availability, machinery, fertiliser, seed, and hardy crop varieties also can help farmers in rural areas boost production, plan ahead and consider their options, he said.

Courtesy of SATNET

The telecentre project focuses on providing services including internet access, photocopying, radios, mobile phone and credit sales and phone charging to rural communities, as well as offering brochures promoting advice about farming practises.

Altogether, more than 30 telecentres are now operating around the country, each with an average of more than 800 users.

Calvin Kaleyi, a spokesman for the Zambia National Farmers Union, said that since only the a minority of people in the country have access to the internet – about 6 percent – information centres are hugely beneficial to local communities for finding out about a wide range of agricultural issues, including how to adapt to climate change.

Click here to view the full, original article.

Facebook – the leading website in Africa

Recent research has indicated that Facebook is one of the top applications used by internet consumers in many African countries, being reported variously as #1 in Africa, #1 in Ghana and #2 in S. Africa amongst others.

Given this, I personally found the attached article particularly interesting.  The image accompanying the article is a visualization, based on Facebook friend and location data, that shows which cities have a lot of friendships between them – each line representing a real human relationship.

It’s fascinating to see how well places such as Khartoum, Addis Ababa, Nairobi, Kampala, Dar es Salaam, Harare and Antananarivo are highlighted, indicating just how deeply into Africa Facebook is having an impact.

A high-res image accompanies the original article.

Mike Last, WIOCC.