Drastic broadband cost reduction for Africa - thanks to Tata

April 12th, 2009 - 2:14 pm ICT by IANS  

By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg, April 12 (IANS) South and East African broadband consumers will see dramatic cost cuts when the Seacom cable system, being developed in partnership with India’s Tata Communications, comes on line in July this year.

Tata Communications will be an anchor tenant customer on the privately-owned Seacom cable, with the Tata-led South African consortium Neotel playing a major role in rolling out broadband access in the country in anticipation of increased uptake due to the lower cost.

In recent months, Neotel has been ripping up roads all over Johannesburg to install cables. It has also entered into agreements with other service providers to use the same network to reduce costs as it extended the project to other major cities.

But besides South Africa, Seacom cable will also enable Tata Communications to service customers with fully integrated network services in countries such as Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania - all three until now largely restricted because of huge broadband costs.

“As a truly global service provider, we are able to provide end-to-end solutions in India, Europe and South Africa, as well as onward connectivity to major business destinations to the United States and Asia,” Simon Cooper, vice president of international network development, Global Transmission Services at Tata Communications, told the magazine IT Week here.

“Prior to the development of this cable system the majority of East Africa relied on small and expensive satellite circuits to meet their international network requirements, so we are very excited to be able to help meet the rapidly increasing demand for bandwidth and connectivity throughout this region,” Cooper said.

Tata Communications will operate the Seacom landing point in Mumbai while Neotel will take care of the South African end.

Neotel CEO Ajay Panday told IT Week that the rapidly changing telecom landscape in South Africa in the past year would be “nothing compared to the changes that will be seen in the next 12 to 18 months as the new Seacom cable comes into operation.

“We will see a new age in telecommunications in South Africa as it becomes extremely competitively priced like never before, not only for local businesses and consumers, but also we will witness the dawning of South Africa becoming really competitive in global terms for the first time, activating the much needed second digital economy,” Panday said.

There are currently two other undersea cable projects also around the coast of Africa.

The West African Cable System Consortium (WACS), expected to be in operation by the end of 2010, is still in its final stages of agreement between the parties concerned, and will connect the West African coast to Europe; while the East African Submarine Cable System (Eassy) is due to go into operation by the first quarter of next year.

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