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West Africa switched on to ACE undersea broadband cable

By , Editor, ITWeb Africa
Africa , 20 Dec 2012

West Africa switched on to ACE undersea broadband cable

France Telecom-Orange and its partners have said that the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable is operational, linking Europe to the African island of Sao Tomé & Principe in its first phase.

The $700 million African western coastline cable - which upon completion is planned to extend 17,000 km from France to South Africa and connect to 13 countries in total - is to directly link several nations to a submarine network for the first time.

African countries that are expected to be connected to an undersea cable network for the first time thanks to ACE include The Gambia, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Sao Tomé & Principe and Sierra Leone. 

Future plans for ACE further involve connecting landlocked countries, such as Mali and Niger, through extensions to the terrestrial network, says France Telecom Orange. Nigeria is also planned to be connected to the cable in 2013, according to the company.

The arrival of the cable could help African countries develop more broadband services, while offering an alternative western route to the likes of the SAT3-WASC-SAFE network, which links Africa to Portugal and Malaysia.

ACE could also help boost overall capacity to 5.12 Tbps as a result of the system using 40 Gbps technology, say France Telecom officials.

To carry out this project, France Telecom-Orange has said that together with its subsidiaries Côte d'Ivoire Telecom, Orange Cameroon, Orange Mali, Orange Niger and Sonatel, the firm has combined forces with major partners to form an international consortium.

ACE is just the latest broadband cable to be connected to the continent, as the likes of the West African Cable System (WACS) and SEACOM, on Africa’s East Coast, have gone live in the last five years.

Experts, though, have said the arrival of undersea broadband cables on Africa’s shores could result in ‘glut’ of capacity.

Dobek Pater, director at Africa Analysis, stated at ITWeb Africa’s launch event this year that by 2014 the total terminal connectivity out of Africa on submarine cables is expected to be more than 60 Tbps with existing and planned cables.

Improving the telecoms environment is a key driver, said Pater. But he expressed concerns that it may be difficult to foresee if these cables will use their full capacity over their 20-year life spans, as this could depend on demand.

He also revealed that the abundance of cables could result in a bandwidth glut and dramatic price reductions.
“Price reductions are expected across all market segments, but most notably in the international and national segments due to greater competition and future installed capacity,” said Pater.

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