Fiber projects in Africa pick up - and watch for pirates

Two new long-haul undersea fiber projects in Africa are gaining momentium. The $130 million East Africa Marine Systems Cable (TEAMS) started to lay down cable this week, while Telecom Namibia has taken a 9 percent stake in the $600 million West Africa Cable System (WACS); Tata has also announced WACS participation.

TEAMS will run from Fujairah, United Arab Emirates, to Mombasa, Kenya. Laying the 5,000 kilometer long cable is expected to take two months. Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks (ASN) is providing the cable and the ship to put it into place.  Once the cable lands in Mombasa it will be connected to other fiber networks, including Kenya's NOFBI (National Optic Fibre Backbone Infrastructure).

Kenyan and ASN officials do have concerns about piracy disrupting operations - the cable will pass close to Somalia -- but arrangements have been made to protect the vessel during its voyage between the UAE and Kenya.

On the other side of Africa, WACS will connect countries in Southern Africa, Western Africa and Europe. The submarine cable will be able to carry at least 3.84 terabits per second of bandwidth and is expected to bring faster, reliable and cheaper communications services to the area, and to put Internet rates on par with European communications costs. Countries participating in the project are: South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Cape Verde, Canary Islands, Portugal and the United Kingdom; South Africa, Nigeria and Portugal will have direct connections with the UK.

ASN has also been contracted to construct the 14,000 kilometer WACS project, which is expected to be ready for service by mid-2011.

Given the ease and proliferation of wireless services across Africa, connections to the rest of the world are likely to be both necessary and profitable.

For more:
- Kenya project reported by Daily Nation. Article.
- New Era reports Namibia joining cable project. Article.

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