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Cameroon underutilising fibre infrastructure claims World Bank Group report

By , Freelance Investigative Journalist
Cameroon , 21 Apr 2022

Cameroon is not utilising its submarine fibre optic infrastructure to the maximum, according to research released by the World Bank.

An excerpt from the World Bank Group’s country diagnostic report, Cameron Digital Economy Assessment, reads: “Cameroon’s international connectivity remains non-competitive despite the existence of multiple submarine cables, leading to unused capacity and limited international bandwidth per capita.”

The report delves into Cameroon’s digital economy ecosystem and indicates that state-owned Camtel owns direct connection to all of the international submarine cables, notably South Atlantic 3/West Africa Submarine Cable (SAT-3/WASC), West Africa Cable System (WACS), Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) and South Atlantic Inter Link (SAIL).

Camtel also has indirect connections through the Nigeria-Cameroon Submarine Cable System (NCSCS).

However, despite these infrastructural resources, Cameroon has only been able to use about 15% of SAT-3WASC and about 30% of WACS since the cable systems were rolled out over 17 years ago.

“The diversity of routes increased international bandwidth and international bandwidth per capita, yet a massive margin of progression remains compared to peer countries. The prices of international capacity in Cameroon are high compared to peer coastal countries in both West and East Africa,” the report stated.

World Bank Group said the under-utilisation of the country’s submarine cables is largely due to state monopoly. The state-owned telecoms company is solely in charge of the management and sale of all of the country’s international capacity, which limits completion and increases retail prices for consumers.

“The market dominance of Camtel in the ownership of critical infrastructure continues to threaten competition and the viability of investment in additional network expansion by other operators. Camtel maintains a monopoly over access to the country’s international and terrestrial fibre networks and appears to enjoy the protection of the regulator,” the financial institution stated.

Experts suggest that since Camtel has control over all submarine cable landing stations in the country, the telco has the power to dictate wholesale international connectivity prices, thus resulting to high retail prices for internet services.

The situation has an impact on quality of service, the authors of the report suggested, noting that the international bandwidth available per internet user is lower in Cameroon than in other landlocked countries like Mali where two MNOs operate their own gateways. 

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