Deployment of the Seychelles East Africa System (SEAS) international submarine cable has begun, after the project’s technology partner Alcatel-Lucent reported in a blog that the cable has been loaded on to cable ship CS Ile de Sein, which will lay the undersea fibre-optic link between Dar-es-Salaam and the Seychelles next month. The 1,900km route between the island nation and the African mainland is expected to be completed in mid-May, enabling high speed direct access to the internet and cheaper bandwidth; the 115-isle Seychelles archipelago has so far relied on expensive satellite connections for its domestic and international communications needs. Benjamin Choppy, the Seychelles’ ICT secretary and head of the cable’s owner, Seychelles Cable System Company (SCSC), announced after a visit onboard the cable ship: ‘[SEAS] is a milestone in our development as a country and… is perceived by the government as a strategic asset. It will address a growing demand locally for capacity which is, not surprisingly, driven by social networking, grid computing, online-gaming etc. In addition, Seychelles has been developing its financial sector; with this cable we expect to deliver the quality of service we need to support the further development in this sector and will also make novel business opportunities like data warehousing and call centres possible.’
The European Investment Bank (EIB) has announced an 8 million-euro loan to WIOCC shareholder, the Seychelles Cable Systems Company (SCS), for the installation and operation of the first submarine fibre-optic cable for international connections from the Seychelles, according to Plutarchos Sakellaris, the EIB Vice President for Africa, Caribbean and Pacific lending operations. Sakellaris said the cable would cover a distance of 1,930km, stretching from the main island of Mahé to the existing Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System in Tanzania.
The fibre optic link, which will be built by Alcatel-Lucent, is expected to be operational by the second half of 2012 and will dramatically improve both telecommunications and internet access in the Seychelles, with international transmission capacity estimated at being seven times cheaper than current prices.
Sakellaris and the SCS vice chairman, Benjamin Choppy, signed the submarine cable project loan during a high-level official visit to the Seychelles by the EIB. The project will also benefit from a 4 million-euro grant from the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund to support shareholding in the project by the Seychelles government. A statutory dividend from this equity stake will be used to provide free internet access for schools, libraries, hospitals and other social development-related services.
The 27 million-euro overall project cost will be financed through 40 percent equity and 60 percent debt, the EIB said. Long-term debt will be co-financed equally by the EIB and the African Development Bank, and equity contributions split between three shareholders – the Government of Seychelles, Cable and Wireless Seychelles and Airtel.
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