[AfrICANN-discuss] Private sector begins mapping for seabed cable

Anne-Rachel Inné annerachel at gmail.com
Tue Jul 3 14:06:28 SAST 2007

Posted to the web on: 28 June 2007
Private sector begins mapping for seabed cable
Lesley Stones

WHILE progress on a government-backed undersea cable to boost Africa's
bandwidth remains embroiled in political bickering, private investors
constructing a rival cable have begun mapping out the ocean bed ready
to start installation.

Work has begun on the Seacom cable connecting SA to Mozambique,
Madagascar, Tanzania and Kenya.

It will then be linked to global networks in India, the Middle East and Europe.

The marine surveying is being carried out by Tyco Telecommunications,
a pioneer in undersea communications technology that has designed and
installed more than 80 undersea systems.

Tyco's survey vessel, the Fugro Gauss, arrived in Durban on June 17
and was due to set off yesterday to begin assessing the 13000km route
along the east coast of Africa.

The $300m project is being led by Herakles Telecom, but its vice-
president, Brian Herlihy, has declined to identify other private
investors backing the venture.

"The arrival of the Fugro Gauss in the Durban harbour to start the
marine survey, which precedes the construction of the Seacom cable, is
a reassurance to the African communities which we serve of our
commitment to construction deadlines," said Herlihy.

Seacom's fibreoptic link is due to go live early in 2009 and promises
cheap, high-capacity bandwidth for national carriers, broadcasters,
and education and research networks.

"East and South African user demand for international bandwidth,
whether for business, institution or individual use, has greatly
surpassed the existing supply," said Herlihy.

"Seacom, as an international submarine cable system, will provide
significant supply at affordable prices.

"The system will deliver infrastructure support for the growth of the
information and communication technology sector, in particular
business process outsourcing, call centres, pharmaceutical research
industries and education networks."

The Indian Ocean's African seabed is the only one in the world without
a fibreoptic cable, forcing Africa to rely heavily on expensive
satellite links and to route calls between neighbouring countries via

Earlier this year, Associated Press quoted Herlihy as saying: "We
think that the high price of satellite communication is creating an
artificially low demand market and, because of that, we think there is
pent-up demand."

Less progress has been made with the East African Submarine System
(Eassy), a 9900km fibreoptic line supposed to link SA to Sudan. Last
week, Parliament ratified the broadband protocol of the New
Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), effectively imposing
political power over the Eassy project, even though the $300m cable is
being funded by the private sector.

The Democratic Alliance voted against ratification, with spokeswoman
Dene Smuts opposing the move to hijack Eassy and fold it into the
Nepad initiative. This will give the government representatives a
golden share and veto rights.

The Eassy project has been held up since 2002 by wrangling over its
funding and ownership, and by political intervention to make sure its
bandwidth is not kept artificially expensive by the telecom operators
investing in it.

Anne-Rachel Inne

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