[AfrICANN-discuss] Nigeria: Broadband Penetration - Where Are the Submarine Cables?

Mamadou LO alfamamadou at hotmail.com
Tue Jul 20 15:35:42 SAST 2010

Nigeria: Broadband Penetration - Where Are the Submarine Cables?
Emma Okonji
19 July 2010

Nigerians had long been hoping on broadband explosion and penetration in the country, but such hope appears too far from reality, despite promises made by Glo 1, MainOne, and MTN WACS.

If their promises were backed with commitments, by now, several home and offices in both urban and rural centres would have been connected to the Internet at very cheap rates, as promised by the trio.

But the reverse is the case, where only the well-to-do Nigerians pay through their nose to get connected to the internet whose browsing speed is as slow as the speed of a snail.

Globacom, on September 7, 2009, took Nigerian journalists to witness the historic landing of its submarine cable on the shores of Lagos. Shortly after it landed, Globacom promised Nigerians that in few months from that day, it would come up with a commercial launch of its submarine cable, where all Nigerians would be connected to high speed internet browsing, including video and voice at affordable rates.

In the same way, MainOne told Nigerians at various fora in Lagos and Abuja that the company had completed the landing process of its submarine cable, and that it would land the shores of Nigeria on June 30, 2010, and would commence commercial rollout on July 1, 2010. Believing the words of its Chief Executive Officer, Mrs. Funke Opeke, some telecom operators hurriedly went ahead of the July launch date, to pay for capacities in advance.

The month of July has almost come to an end, yet no sign that MainOne is ready to rollout commercially as earlier promised.

However, Opeke, in a statement, said the MainOne Cable project went live on July 1, 2010 as promised.

According to her "for a simple cable, we are extremely competitive, we have the latest technology. It would provide on day one 1.92 terabits per second, it has the capacity to do that. And, we believe that we will be able to install 40 gigabit wave length system which is the next upgrade on this same cable system and get significant improvement beyond the 1.92 terabit through the life cycle of the cable. It is state of the art; it is what you will find in other markets."

MTN, in December 2009, told Nigerians that it was coming with the West African Cable System (WACS), a high capacity submarine cable system linking Europe, West Africa and South Africa, with over 3.8 terabytes per second (Tbps), covering a distance of over 14,000 kilometres from United Kingdom, Portugal, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, DRC, Angola, Namibia and South Africa. Addressing the media in December 2009, MTN's Corporate Services Executive, Mr. Wale Goodluck, explained that the MTN WACS would be ready for commercial launch in December 2010, and that the Nigeria cable landing station would be built, developed, operated and managed by MTN Nigeria. December is just around the corner, and there are no signs that the date is feasible.

Going by the unfulfilled promises, it does appear that the submarine cable project is bigger, with more financial backup than it is currently being portrayed by the trio.

Explaining an expert view on the situation, President of Nigeria Internet Group (NIG), Mr. Lanre Ajayi, said he was confident that the three operators were capable of rollout submarine cable services.

According to him, "landing the submarine cable and rolling out services are not difficult task that could not be accomplished by the operators." He gave example with East African countries where submarine cables were landed successfully and are currently operational. He however said that the difference between the management of submarine cable projects in Eastern Africa and that of Nigeria was the fact that submarine cables were handled and managed by consortium of firms in Eastern Africa, while in Nigeria, most of the planned submarine cables are being managed by individuals and single operators.

Addressing a press conference shortly after the landing of Glo1 in Alpha Beach in Lagos, Executive Director in charge of Human Resources for Globacom, Mr. Adewale Sangowawa said it would likely commence commercial operation after the commercial launch in 6 weeks time.

The 9, 800 kilometre state-of-the-art cable was embarked upon by Globacom in 2007. The cable landing which was witnessed by Journalists in Lagos was celebrated by Globacom and its technical partner, Alcatel Lucent.

As soon as the landing process was completed, Alcatel Lucent officially handed the undersea cable to Globacom, from where it would be linked to the landing station, located few metres from the beach.

According to Sangowawa, the Glo 1 submarine cable would enable Globacom have a clear distinction in providing quality services through multiple redundant and high quality direct links to various countries across the globe and would enable it to interconnect with several international networks and leading traffic carriers in the world.

Glo 1, according to Sangowawa "complements its nationwide optic fibre cable, and will provide better alternative to bulk voice and data transmission requirements than satellite and microwave-based transmissions."

He said Globacom had through the pioneering of telecom systems, underlined its resolve to continue to offer Nigerians world-class services.

Listing the benefits of Glo 1 submarine cable, Glo 1 Project Manager, Mr. Kayode Odebiyi said the Glo 1 would provide connectivity from Lagos to Bude in the United Kingdom through fibre optic cable laid undersea and that the cable would offer sufficient capacity for traffic for the Globacom's mobile, fixed and internet telecommunication services. He said it would offer 99.9 per cent up time reliability, world-class long distance voice, video and data communication services to the African customer.

According to Opeke, "the successful completion of our shore-end cable laying operations in Lagos and Accra, again signposts the seriousness with which this project is being executed and our commitment to ensuring that we deliver on our target completion date of June 2010."

WACS, which is a consortium of eleven operators from 9 Countries, including MTN, Portugal Telecom, Tata/Neotel, Telkom, Broadband Infraco, Vodacom, among others has a primary incentive to lower costs and improve in-country services. MTN said it has an open access policy that would allow all operators, including competitive Telcos to have access to it

Listing its benefits, Wale Goodluck said WACS would eliminate monopolies and ensure unfettered access to capacity for all operators; facilitate telecom regulator's strategic objectives for Nigeria's telecom sector, and enable broadband revolution, especially local internet peering.

He said it would increase Nigeria's ICT activities, decrease international bandwidth prices and increase consumer access to bandwidth dependent services.

Nigerians are not unaware of all the listed benefits of broadband penetration through the various planned submarine cable, but their concern is how to see it operational as promised by Glo 1, MainOne and MTN WACS. They have therefore appealed to the operators concerned to always match word with action. It is no longer a thing of surprise when Chief Executive Officer of Eisalat, Steve Evans spoke publicly recently that Etisalat would not want to delve into such tasking project of submarine cable, but would rather buy capacity from any operator that was able to rollout commercially. Zain may have toed the line of Etisalat, as the company had since kept mum over the matter.


Source : Daily Independent (Lagos) 
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