JOHANNESBURG:- The announcement today of a formal agreement for the construction of the West Africa Cable System (WACS) by all South Africa’s major telecommunications operators sets the scene for total international bandwidth capacity coming into Africa growing more than a hundredfold by the end of 2011.
The Internet Access in South Africa 2008 study, conducted by World Wide Worx and supported by Cisco Systems, shows that international bandwidth available to sub-Saharan Africa was a mere 80 Gigabits per second at the end of 2008. This was split between the Telkom-controlled SAT3/SAFE cable and the West African Atlantis-2 cable.
But, according to the report, the capacity will rise to around 10 Terabits per second by the end of 2011, or 120 times the 208 capacity. This growth will be the cumulative result of the existing SAT3 cable being upgraded, three major new cables becoming operational this year, another two in 2010, and the WACS cable in 2011.
These figures exclude capacity available to North African countries that have access to a network of cables criss-crossing the Mediterranean.
Says Reshaad Sha, Senior Manager of Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group, “It is encouraging to witness and be part of the telecommunications revolution that Africa is currently undergoing. The role that the undersea cable operators will play is crucial to both the developmental and economic agendas that have and are being set by African Governments.”
The confirmed new cables due to serve West, East and Southern Africa are:
SEACOM, East and Southern Africa, 1.28Tb/s – Due end June 2009
GLO-1, West Africa,640 Gb/s, ready for operations, 2009
TEAMS, East and Southern Africa, 120Gb/s – Due September 2009
EASSy, East and Southern Africa, 1.Tb/s – Due June 2010
MainOne, West Africa, 1.92Tb/s, due 2010
WACS, West and Southern Africa, 3.8Tb/s, Due 2011
“The WACS agreement puts in place the final spark for the broadband revolution that is about to sweep Africa,” says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx. “The real significance of all these undersea cables is that they will in turn lead to further infrastructure expansion to bring this bandwidth to end-users, especially in the business world.”
Cisco’s Sha concurs: “The telecoms operators and governments are still required to fulfil the role of delivering this connectivity to their citizens. This will probably be the most challenging role in realising the benefits of the terabits of bandwidth that will be reaching the African coastlines.”
The Internet Access in South Africa 2008 report includes an overview of each of these cables and a timeline for their implementation. Download the executive summary here.
8 April 2009