Study eyes South African link to undersea cable system

The Southern Africa Telecommunications Association (SATA)  is carrying out a feasibility study that is aimed at getting landlocked countries in the region connected to the East Africa Submarine Cable System  (EASSY) under the Indian Ocean through backhaul links.

The cable system runs along the east coast of Africa, creating a digital super highway that links South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique with Europe and Asia.

However, there have been fears that many landlocked countries in Southern Africa may not be able to connect to the cable due to lack of funds and the long distance to landing stations. But countries have agreed to the setting up of backhaul links that will provide interconnectivity in the Southern African region, through which landlocked countries will connect to the undersea cable systems.

Through the backhaul system, landlocked countries will be able to connect to the submarine cables via landing stations in Mozambique, South Africa and Tanzania.

The feasibility study would also determine the amount of money required to link the landlocked countries with landing points through the backhaul links.

SATA is an association of regional telecommunications companies and operators that aim to coordinate the development of networks and services responsible for the region’s socioeconomic programs.

Set up almost 30 yeas ago, SATA brings together members for joint action, sharing of experiences and best practices and contribution toward telecommunications development in the region.

SATA Executive Secretary Jacob Munodawafa said last week that most countries in Southern Africa, especially the landlocked countries, are heavily relying on the use of microwave radio system and satellite connectivity for national, regional and long distance communication.

In order to provide broadband services, Munodawafa said operators require high bandwidth for national, regional and international connectivity.

 That is why, he added, a modern fiber-optic digital telecommunication network, comprising domestic or cross-border terrestrial links and an international undersea highway, is recognized worldwide as the main catalyst of ICT development.

“It is in this regard that SATA members agreed to form a backhaul working group coordinated by SATA to spearhead the implementation of the backhaul links interconnecting the countries in Southern Africa and to the submarine cables,” Munodawafa said in an e-mail.

The Zambia Telecommunications Company (Zamtel), an EASSY member, has said it will connect to the cable in Tanzania through Tunduma in 2010. SATA members include Mauritius Telecom, Telecom Malagasy, Tanzania Telecommunication, TeOne, Malawi Telecommunication and Telecom South Africa.

The feasibility study for the backhaul transmission links that will be completed next month is a continuation of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Regional Information Infrastructure (SRII) project aimed at interconnecting SADC member countries with fiber-optic technology.

In addition to the issues of connectivity and the cost of the interconnectivity, the study is also covering equipment capacities, routing, traffic volumes and an environmental impact assessment. The study is being funded by the African Development Bank and is being carried out by Pricewaterhouse Coopers of the U.K.

Meanwhile, Malawi Telecommunications has announced that it has almost completed the US$55 million fiber-optic network that will be linked to networks in Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa.

The cable will open the landlocked country to the international superhighway through interconnection with other regional countries.

MTL CEO Peter Zimmer said by December this year, the company’s cable should be connected to the rest of the World through EASSY and the newly launched SEACOM cable.

The high speed link to be installed between Malawi and Zambia will be extended to other telecommunication hubs by 2011. The national fiber-optic backbone will facilitate high-speed voice and data transmission at lower prices compared to satellite communication.

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