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Broadband: WACS cable lands S-Africa

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By Prince Osuagwu

Millions of MTN subscribers across the continent are inching closer to receiving a broadband windfall following the successful landing of the West Africa Cable System (WACS) cable off the west coast of South Africa this week.

The cable landed at Yzerfontein along the west coast of the Western Cape. MTN is the single biggest investor in WACS, with an investment of over $90 million.

WACS is a 14, 000 kilometre -ong fibre optic submarine cable with a capacity of 5.12 terabits per second (tbps), spanning the west coast of Africa and terminating in the United Kingdom. It is expected to enable seamless connectivity among countries in Southern and West Africa with the rest of Europe and America.

The WACS cable, which is expected to go commercial next year, has 15 established terminal stations along route and will function to reduce the cost to connect the West coast of Africa into the high-speed global telecommunications network.

Karel Pienaar, Managing Director, MTN South Africa, says of the project: “Africa has until now, been a cyclist on the information superhighway. MTN’s investment in WACS will ensure that millions of our subscribers in South Africa and across the continent have the capacity and the ability to optimally utilize the data and telemetry offerings that modern telephony applications provide. We sincerely believe that the commercialisation of WACS and other submarine cables will set the stage for a mobile revolution that will enhance the quality of life for millions of people across the continent.”

Designed to support present and future Internet, e-commerce, data, video and voice services, the system makes use of dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) technology, which enables bidirectional communications over one strand of fiber, as well as the multiplication of capacity.

The initial capacity of WACS is over 500 Gbps and is upgradable at any stage of the project. The robustness of the design will also enable the system to accommodate the latest developments in submarine fibre-optic technology.

In addition to complementing existing high-bandwidth 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 total project cost will not exceed $650 million.

The Consortium comprises of the following partners: MTN, Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco; Cable&Wireless Worldwide; Congo Telecom.; Société Congolaise des Postes et Télécommunications (“SCPT”); PT COMUNICAÇÕES; Togo Telecom; Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia; Telkom SA Ltd; and Vodacom Group Ltd.

All members of the consortium signed the Construction and Maintenance Agreement (C&MA) and Supply Contract on 8 April 2009. The supply contract came in force on 25 May 2009 soon after which ASN work began on the cable system.

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