MTL’s USD55m project successful

By Gregory Gondwe, Lilingwe, Malawi

Malawi Telecommunications Limited (MTL) has hailed its USD55 optic fibre link which it says has not only improved internet and other telecommunications services but it has also made them more affordable.

The Business-Plus Product Manager for MTL, Esther Masi, said the connectivity had indeed proven that the satellite links which MTL was previously using (and which are still being used by other operators), cannot match fibre optics' higher bandwidth.

“It is also more affordable; has greater reliability and fast transmission,” she said.

MTL says another advantage over the satellite system is that the new system uses pulses of light instead of electric voltages to transmit data, making it immune to electrical interference and wiretapping.

The company says the satellite disc can only transmit data between 128 kilobytes to 784 kilobytes while the entry level for fibre optic is 100,000 kilobytes and maxes out at 1,00,00 kilobytes.

Lengthy upgrade project

In 2008, MTL embarked on a massive upgrade of its network through the Telecommunications Network Development Project.

The optic fibre cable link extends to Malawi’s border district of Mwanza, Zobue in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia, which connects to submarine cables in the Indian Ocean from the rest of the world.

“Telecommunication service cost will reduce by almost 50% following the completion of the project,” declared Elias Imaan, MTL Chief Commercial officer at the time of its installation.

Happy users

Users of telecommunication service have said they are benefitting from the project, as they are now operating at a reduced cost.

Winston Kamputeni, who was previously using a satellite connected internet café in the northern city of Mzuzu, disclosed that his connectivity costs have been reduced by 60% with the new system.

 “Of course the current economic hardships in the country have disturbed business in the country, but I can vouch for the latest optic fibre connectivity’s advantages over the satellite connection,” he said.

Out with the old

The project was first outlined at a high profile management Press Briefing in Blantyre on July 21, 2009.

The biggest advantage highlighted at that time was that the project would unlock the country’s landlocked status, as it would connect into the international superhighway.

The resulting connectivity, ranges from a bandwidth capacity of 10 gigabytes per second to a ring of 2.5 gigabytes per second across Malawi, which the company’s ICT Specialist Marshall Mdeza said has helped Malawi achieve phenomenal communication speed.

He said this is possible since the new connectivity will be transmitting voice, data and video at 100 megabytes per second to one Gigabyte per second.

Before, Malawi used microwave links to achieve its transmission of data and voices and according to MTL this facility was as old as 20 years and could not carry full load traffic generated by the ever expanding MTL customer base which also incorporates Malawi’s two mobile phone service providers.

Masi disclosed that MTL's main transmission backbone then comprised microwave links between the main centres of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba.

“These links had limited capacity and were prone to failure,” said Masi.

The optic fibre links have replaced these and now comprise Southern optic fibre ring, Northern optic fibre ring, Metropolitan rings in the major cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe and the International links through Mozambique and Tanzania.

The southern ring links Blantyre to Lilongwe via Balaka and Dedza, continuing to Salima, Mangochi and Zomba before returning to Blantyre and the northern ring, links Lilongwe to Mzuzu via Kasungu and Mzimba, continuing to Dwangwa and Salima before returning to Lilongwe.

All these were implemented in such way that if a fault develops in any part of a ring, the traffic would be routed around the remainder of the ring in the other direction to maintain the flow of traffic without service interruption.

Benefits for all

She said the whole country stands to benefit and has already started benefiting from this initiative.

“Various studies throughout the world have shown that there is generally a correlation between the level of a country's telecommunication infrastructure and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)", she said.

She added that it is foreseen that the expansion of the MTL network is an important contribution to Malawi's economic growth and that the whole business community and the country will reap the benefits of a more efficient telecommunications system and streamlined processes.

“These benefits will go beyond the sectors directly involved in the Information Communication Technology (ICT) market,” said Masi.

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