Upgrade to 10,000km subsea system linking South Africa to Sudan will further boost ultra-broadband capacity and strengthen onward connectivity between eastern & southern Africa and Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Paris, January 22, 2014 — Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU) is to upgrade the EASSy submarine cable system, one of the largest and most modern systems serving Africa, with the deployment of the latest 100 gigabit-per-second (Gbit/s) technology.
Alcatel-Lucent‘s 100G technology will enable the system to ultimately carry capacity in excess of 10Tbit/s, further complementing its ability to carry high volumes of data capacity on the EASSy system, which runs 10,000km from South Africa to Sudan, in support of the continued explosion of data traffic in Africa. Alcatel-Lucent will leverage its unmatched experience of deployments around Africa to provide this upgrade within EASSy’s requested timeframe.
EASSy is owned and operated by a group of 17 African and international shareholders – all telecommunications operators and service providers. The system is implemented in a protected ring configuration linking eight countries from Sudan to South Africa, via Djibouti, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Comores and Mozambique. Landings are located in Port Sudan, Djibouti (Djibouti), Mombasa (Kenya), Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania), Moroni (Comores), Toliary (Madagascar), Maputo (Mozambique) and Mtunzini (South Africa). The system also addresses a wide range of international destinations through interconnection with multiple international submarine cable networks for diverse, seamless onward connectivity to Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Asia.
Chris Wood, Chairman of the EASSy Management Committee said: “Since EASSy entered service in 2010, we have seen enormous growth in demand for capacity on the system, reflecting the service quality and reliability that we have been able to offer. This upgrade will add an additional 400Gbps of capacity throughout the system, using Alcatel-Lucent’s advanced coherent 100Gbit/s technology, and enables us to take a further step in offering our customers the ultra-broadband capacity needed for innovative services and applications.”
Philippe Dumont, President of Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks, said: “We are pleased to continue our cooperation with EASSy owners following the initial deployment and subsequent upgrades to higher speeds. With staged upgrades until now, this latest upgrade using our 100Gbit/s technology confirms Alcatel-Lucent as the leading innovation partner to address evolving connectivity needs over time whilst meeting the low-latency and the resilience requirements that our customers demand.”
WIOCC has announced the interconnection of its network with that of Global Crossing, a leading global IP solutions provider, in order to meet the rapid growth in demand for cost-effective, high-quality, end-to-end connectivity between Africa and the rest of the world. “This strategic relationship with Global Crossing, with its comprehensive global network reach, significantly improves our ability to deliver end-to-end service to WIOCC customers in Africa and the rest of the world,” said WIOCC CEO Chris Wood.
“Our shareholders own terrestrial networks that interconnect 20 African countries over more than 50,000km of optical fibre, serving more than 400 African locations,” added WIOCC’s COO Ryan Sher. Global Crossing’s network reaches more than 700 cities in more than 70 countries across North America, Latin America and Europe. The two networks are interconnected in London, offering both service providers improved reach from their respective markets.
“EASSy represents the majority of the international capacity available on Africa’s east coast,” said Habib Issa, Global Crossing’s head of Carrier Sales for South Europe, Middle East and Africa. “WIOCC has unparalleled reach throughout eastern and southern Africa, and will play an important role in improving Internet connectivity throughout this region.”
With African consumers and businesses increasingly demanding improved access to data-rich services and Internet content originating outside the continent, the WIOCC/Global Crossing relationship benefits African telcos and ISPs by improving their ability to deliver cost-effective, high-speed connectivity with the rest of the world. International carriers looking for better connectivity into Africa can now take advantage of Global Crossing’s network as a convenient access mechanism for exchanging traffic directly with eastern and southern Africa using the WIOCC-EASSy cable and network.
In Zimbabwe, the installation of the fibre-optic cable connecting Harare to Beitbridge (on the S. African border) via Bulawayo, which was due to start early this year is to commence this week.
WIOCC shareholder, TelOne’s, Managing Director Mr Hampton Mhlanga said the project was delayed because the Chinese contractors had problems in meeting immigration requirements. “We were having problems acquiring visa and work permits for the Chinese contractors. That has slowed down progress in the project we had earmarked for completion at the end of the year,” he said. He added that work on the project was scheduled to start on May 8.
In the 2011 National Budget, Government allocated US$15 million for the Harare-Bulawayo-Beitbridge and Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge fibre-optic project which covers a total distance of about 1,340km. Mr Mhlanga said TelOne was also upgrading existing backbone infrastructure for the Harare-Kariba link.
TelOne has already completed installation of the Harare to Mozambique fibre-optic cable. Before this was laid, Zimbabwe had been using the Mazowe earth satellite link, which is expensive and has limited capacity. Once complete, the fibre-optic links will enable faster Internet and telephone connection, transmission of data as well as multimedia facilities.
According to recent studies by Hamilton Research, Africa’s total international Internet bandwidth reached 520 Gbps in December 2010, a 78% increase compared to 2009. This was split between North Africa, which increased by 56% to reach 312 Gbps, and Sub-Saharan Africa which increased by 125% to reach 208 Gbps.
This bandwidth growth is clearly the result of the arrival of multiple, competing submarine cables last year. This has seen dramatic increases in countries connected to submarine cables for the first time: Comores Telecom for example, which was connected to EASSy in July last year, increased its Internet bandwidth from 12 Mbps in 2008 to 180 Mbps by December 2010. Meanwhile, Mauritius Telecom which was first connected to SAFE since 2002 and has also invested in the EASSy, LION, EIG, and WACS cables, initially activated four STM-1 circuits (622 Mbps) on EASSy and had increased its Internet bandwidth from 3 Gbps to 4.8 Gbps by December 2010.
Growth has also been driven by the completion of cross-border backhaul routes from landlocked countries. The volume of cross-border traffic backhauled to submarine cables doubled again for the second year running, reaching almost 20 Gbps in December 2010. There has also been significant progress in the expansion of national fibre backbones delivering greater bandwidth to cities and towns inland from the coast. In the first quarter of 2011, a total of 45,338.7-kms of network was added or edited in the Africa Telecom Transmission Map, bringing the total inventory of terrestrial transmission network to 645,938.2-km. By comparison, in July 2010 this stood at 585,471-km and in July 2009 at 465,659-km (restated).
According to Socialbakers, which publish worldwide Facebook user statistics, Africa reached some 28.59 million users by the end of April 2011. Africa reached the milestone of 25 million users in February 2011, a net increase of 5.4 million compared to three months previously (19.6 million), and 8.3 million six months previously (16.7 million).
Africa Telecom Transmission Map Updates Q1, 2011
A total of 372 changes were made to terrestrial transmission networks on the Africa Telecom Transmission map during the quarter, with fibre backbones extended in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Comoros, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This included 17,232.3-km of operational fibre, 14,417.5-km of fibre under construction, 6,731.6-km of fibre which was planned, and 4,417.3-km of fibre which was proposed. A further 2,540-km of microwave network was either added or edited.
As an example of the speed with which terrestrial fibre routes are being built, landlocked Zambia currently has 3,671-km of fibre under construction (Q1, 2011) and will have four separate international fibre routes to submarine cables by the end of this year. The first is the existing fibre link through Namibia, and the second is through Botswana. In April, Liquid Telecom and Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) announced that they had created a joint venture called CEC Liquid Telecommunications Ltd which will provide international wholesale services through Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, ZESCO has started work on the second phase of its national fibre backbone, including a link to Tanzania, which it plans to complete the end of the year.
Fibre Long Haul
African operators are continuing to build new backhaul routes to submarine cable landing points to increase diversity and resilience, and are expanding national backbones to delivering greater bandwidth to cities and towns inland from the coast. In Cameroon for example, a new fibre route was completed from Douala to Limbe, where the ACE cable will land. In the Comoros, Comores Telecom completed fibre routes prior to the entry into service of the EASSy cable, and in December last year announced plans to build an inter-island submarine cable as a domestic backbone connecting the islands of Grand Comore, Anjouan and Mohéli.
Elsewhere, in Ghana the National Communications Backbone Co Ltd (NCBC) completed a northern fibre ring from Navrongo to Sunyani and in Malawi the Malawi Telecommunications Ltd (MTL) completed a fibre route from Lilongwe (the capital) to Mangochi as it close a southern ring to Blantyre. In Tanzania TiGO and Zantel announced they have started building their own national fibre backbone primarily along railway lines, which is due for completion within 24 months. And in South Africa, FibreCo (the joint venture between Cell C, Convergence Partners and Internet Solutions) announced plans to complete the first phase of national backbone by the end of 2012. Meanwhile, the co-built network being built by Neotel, MTN and Vodacom had trenched some 472-km of the route from Pretoria to Durban by December 2010, and Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) are also building a second alternative route from Pretoria to Mtunzini via Vryheid.
Several additional cross-border routes were added to the map during the quarter. Swaziland has opened up a second international fibre route via Lavumisa to the submarine cables landing at Mtunzini (South Africa). In Chad, the fibre route from Ndjamena (the capital) to Kome was completed in the first quarter, and will soon be connected to the fibre cable running along the pipeline from Kome to Kribi via Yaounde. Once operational, this will provide Chad with access to submarine cables landing in Cameroon for the first time.
During April, Liquid Telecom announced that it had formed a joint venture with Copperbelt Energy Corporation (CEC) called CEC Liquid Telecommunications, and has started building a fibre route from Chirundu on the Zimbabwe/ Zambia border to Ndola via the capital, Lusaka. Malawi Telecom Ltd (MTL) plans to complete a second international fibre route to Mozambique by the end of the year from Mangochi to Mandimba as an alternative to the existing route through Zobue. In Uganda, Kenya Data Networks (KDN) expects to complete the fibre route from Kampala to Gatuna on the border with Rwanda during the second quarter, which will close a fibre route from Mombasa (Kenya) to Kigali (Rwanda).
The Europe India Gateway (EIG) submarine cable, which provides onward connectivity for cables serving sub-Saharan Africa, entered partial service during the first quarter with the segments from the UK to Libya (Tripoli), and from India to Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) entering service. The remaining segments through Egypt from Jeddah to Tripoli are due to enter service during the second quarter. In April, Globacom announced that the GLO-1 cable running from Lagos to the UK entered service from Accra (Ghana) following the launch of services from Lagos (Nigeria) last year. In addition, the WACS cable landed at Yzerfontein near Cape Town (South Africa) on 19 April, and after completion in the second half the year is expected to enter service in the first quarter of 2011.
Africa’s total Internet bandwidth increased by 78% to reach 520 Gbps in December 2010, with North Africa increasing by 56% to reach 312 Gbps and Sub-Saharan Africa by 125% to reach 208 Gbps. The volume of cross-border traffic backhauled to submarine cables doubled again for the second year running, reaching almost 20 Gbps in December 2010.
Whilst a number of key new cross-border routes were completed last year, the capacity on existing routes has been upgraded in line with demand. Burkina Faso for example increased its international Internet bandwidth on cross-border fibre routes to Senegal (via Mali), Cote d’Ivoire and Benin (via Togo) from four STM-1 circuits (622 Mbps) in 2009 to six (933 Mbps) in 2010.
The Botswana Telecommunications Authority (BTA) has directed the country’s telecoms operators to reduce the price of a number of regulated wholesale telecom services, following the completion of a study to develop a cost model and pricing framework for services commissioned in January 2010. Mmegi Online reports that mobile termination rates will be cut by BWP0.30 (USD0.04) from the previous rate of BWP0.75 to BWP0.45, which the regulator says will radically reduce the cost of services for end-users. Until 2014 the rate will continue to fall by an average of BWP0.05 per year. Meanwhile, fixed termination rates, which the BTA said are currently marginally below costs, should increase by an average of BWP0.01 annually until 2014. ADSL prices will be revised downwards to align them to costs and make services more affordable to users; the weighted average reduction on wholesales ADSL prices for download speeds of up to 512kbps, 1Mbps and 2Mbps will be 17%.
The new internet rates, according to the BTA, are a result of the government’s investment in the Eastern African Submarine System (EASSy) which launched in July 2010. The government invested around USD100 million in the system, which links Sudan to South Africa via Djibouti, Somalia, Tanzania, Madagascar and Mozambique. The regulator said that while some reductions will be immediate, other rates will fall gradually from 1 April 2011.
EASSy, the first submarine system to deliver direct connectivity between eastern Africa and Europe, was awarded Best Cable Project by the adjudication committee at Submarine Networks World 2010, one of the industry’s premiere events. The award recognises EASSy as “a milestone project connecting new markets and contributing the most in spreading broadband in the region”.
Chris Wood, Chief Executive Officer of WIOCC, was delighted to accept the award on behalf of the EASSy consortium.
EASSy has been nominated for the Best Cable Project award at the Submarine Networks World 2010 awards night in Singapore later this month.
The East African Submarine System (EASSy) is a wonderful example of a successful public-private partnership, bringing together the financial backing of Developmental Finance Institutions – including the World Bank, African Development Bank and European development banks – with the expertise and stability of 26 international and African telecommunications carriers and licence holders.
The EASSy system was completed on time and within budget – representing a huge success given the complexity of the project. Permits were secured and surveys undertaken across 9 separate administrations. Over 10,000km of optical fibre – together with the subsea equipment (repeaters and branching units) that is key to its functionality – was manufactured, integrated and deployed (over nearly five months) on or under the seabed. Nine landing stations were constructed or refurbished, fitted out with leading-edge optical and power equipment and management systems, and interconnected with terrestrial fibre-optic networks and the EASSy cable. Even after the deployment itself was complete, two months of testing were undertaken to ensure the integrity and performance of the system before launch at end-July 2010. EASSy is now providing high-quality, high-performance internet, voice and data connectivity to businesses and consumers across a growing number of locations and markets throughout eastern and southern half of Africa.