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Wacs is on the way

By , ITWeb
South Africa , 16 Apr 2012

Wacs is on the way

Next month could see the beginning of an economic ascent, driven by increased broadband connectivity, with the launch of the 14 000km, 5.12Tbps subsea fibre-optic cable, the West African Cable System (Wacs). 

In what industry observers say will mark an eventual drop in international broadband prices and could see significant economic impact in the long term, the first submarine cable along the west coast of Africa, since Telkom landed SAT3 in 2001, is set to launch officially next month.

The Wacs management committee says the cable is undergoing final acceptance from its supplier, Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks, and will be launched in Cape Town, one of its 14 landing points. “The commercial readiness of the cable system will be announced once [final acceptance from Alcatel-Lucent] is complete.”

Wacs will connect SA to the UK, with landings in Namibia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Côte d`Ivoire, Cape Verde, the Canary Islands, and Portugal. It is the first cable to land in Namibia, Togo, Congo Brazzaville and the DRC.

Funded by a consortium of 12 parties to the tune of $650 million (about R5.1 billion), Wacs will provide what the company refers to as “much needed diversity for large volume broadband traffic from various Southern and West African countries to Europe”. The cable system, says Wacs, will raise the continent`s current international capacity by over 500Gbps when it goes live.

While the provision of capacity to the market is up to the individual investors, the system`s commercial rollout is expected to follow the launch in May. Investing parties include Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco, Cable & Wireless, Congo Telecom, MTN, Office Congolais des Postes et Télécommunications, Portugal Telecom/Cabo Verde Telecom, Neotel, Telecom Namibia, Telkom SA, Togo Telecom and Vodacom.

Economic implications

According to a World Bank report on broadband in developing countries, every 10% increase in broadband connection boosts economic growth by 1.38%. The Wacs cable is expected to increase connectivity by over 20%.

Wacs officially landed in Yzerfontein, near Cape Town, a year ago, becoming SA`s third international fibre gateway. At the time, Neotel CTO and co-chairman of the Wacs management committee, Angus Hay, said the cable`s design of four fibre pair and 128-wavelength technology made it the largest cable system to ever land in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“It will be capable of carrying the equivalent traffic of Seacom, Eassy and SAT-3/WASC/SAFE cable systems combined. Wacs will meet the demand for capacity well into the first quarter of the 21st Century,” said Hay.

Two more fibre-optic cables are set to follow in Wacs` underwater trail along Africa`s west coast. The Africa Coast to Europe cable, or ACE, will extend 17 000km and land in over 20 countries between France and SA, and is planned for launch during 2012. Also in the pipeline is the South Atlantic Express cable, or SAex, an eFive Telecommunications project that will link Angola, SA and Brazil – anticipated for 2013.

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