Famine turns to feast for east African fiber links

Africa's broadband market is set to quadruple to address 12.7 million users by 2012, according to a study conducted in 33 African markets by investment advisory firm AfricaNext which claims 2009 will be the year that sees this growth start to ramp up. This is borne out by Internet World Stats which has reported that East Africa has seen a demand for Internet connectivity increase with users rising by 1,062% from 2000 to 2008. AfricaNext reckons that wireless technologies plus increased Chinese investment into Africa, notably by vendor Huawei will play their part in stimulating uptake. However, it is a bonanza of submarine cable capacity coming on stream that will play the major part in driving availability and uptake.

In spite of the East African Cable System (Eassy) being delayed for a year until, most likely June 2010, it will begin construction this September and will run under the Indian Ocean from Mtunzini, South Africa to Port Sudan in Sudan. The cable will have landing points in ten countries along the seaboard including Djibouti, Somalia, Mozambique and Madagascar, but will also connect landlocked countries including Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana, Uganda and Rwanda through their national backbones.

East Africa is the only large region in the world that has no link to international communication networks other than via satellite. Eassy's arrival next year and the imminent landing of the SEACOM cable, planned for launch in June this year in time for the 2010 Football World Cup in South Africa, will change the face of comms in the region as famine turns to feast.

SEACOM's new fibre optic cable will run along the east coast of Africa, creating a digital super highway that links South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya with Europe and South Asia.  The cable will extend to Marseilles, France where it will connect to Interoute's network providing a speed of light route to Europe, North America and the Middle East.  The link will offer 1.28 Terabits/s of capacity

In addition, the Alcatel-Lucent controlled Teams cable is set to be completed in the next couple of months. Teams will link the port city of Mombasa in Kenya to Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. Other submarine cable developments include the Middle East North Africa project that will connect Egypt and a number of Middle East and Mediterranean countries.

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.