Southern Africa undertakes feasibility study on submarine cable

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Harare - The Southern African Telecommunications Association (SATA) is carrying out a feasibility study to get landlocked countries in the region connected to the East Africa submarine cable.

In Zimbabwe, fixed telephone service provider TelOne is working with the regional body on the modalities of adopting the undersea cable, its acting technical director, Lawrence Nkala said on Wednesday.

He said the feasibility study would be out by the end this month and that the study would also determine the amount required to link the region with landing points as well as the financiers.

It is critically important for Zimbabwe and other landlocked countries in the region to be connected to the cable that provides high capacity connectivity at lower rates than traditional satellite networks, Mr Nkala said.

The submarine communications cable is laid beneath the sea to carry telecommunications and Internet traffic between countries.

When connected, regional countries will no longer have to rely on expensive satellite systems to carry voice and data services.

"The connectivity will enable the industry to access broadband services. The current transmission system which uses satellite system to link with the rest of the world is expensive."

The landlocked countries would have to use transmission cables that tap into the cable from South Africa and Mozambique. The cable runs along the east coast of Africa, creating a digital super-highway that links South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya with Europe and South Asia.

"Backhaul transmission infrastructure has to be developed from Zimbabwe to the landing points in Maputo, Mozambique, and Mtunzini in South Africa," said Mr Nkala, who felt that the region was lagging behind in technological advances and connectivity.

The cable would be the first to provide broadband to countries in East Africa which, at the moment, relied entirely on expensive satellite connections.

SATA Chief Executive Officer Jacob Munodawafa said operators in the region had to co-operate and keep abreast with developments. "Technologies are changing fast and operators have to come together to share best practices," he said.

He said effort would be made to ensure Zimbabwe was connected by the first quarter of 2010