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MTN looks forward to new capacity

MTN says its USD90 million investment in the West Africa Cable System (WACS) will start bearing fruit soon.

The WACS system, in which MTN is the single biggest investor, will make landfall in South Africa soon and will become commercially available in the second quarter of 2011. MTN will receive an initial capacity of 11% when the cable becomes commercially available.

MTN notes that its WACS investment is one of several it has made in its ongoing efforts to bring much-needed broadband to the continent, to bolster Africa’ s efforts to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals to bridge the digital divide and provide millions of its subscribers in its footprint in Africa and the Middle East the capacity and ability to use smart solutions.

In addition to the investment that MTN ploughed in WACS, MTN has made a cash injection of USD50 million in Europe India Gateway (EIG) - the submarine cable that connects Europe and India, USD40.3 million in the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) – an undersea fibre optic cable system connecting countries of eastern Africa to the rest of the world, and USD10 million in SAT-3/SAFE linking Portugal and Spain to South Africa, with connections to several West African countries along the route.

In EASSy, MTN has already been allocated an initial capacity of 30GB in line with its investment in the cable, while the company enjoys 317GG of capacity on the EIG cable.

Karel Pienaar, MTN South Africa Managing Director, says: “ WACS will provide millions of MTN subscribers across Africa the much-needed bandwidth and will go a long way towards catapulting Africa into the digital age. Lack of bandwidth on the continent has arrested the development of Africa and has constrained the continent from achieving its full potential.”

The WACS submarine cable is an ultra high capacity fiber optic submarine cable system which links Southern Africa and Europe, spanning the west coast of Africa and terminating in London, United Kingdom.

This USD650 million cable system is the biggest to ever land on the Africa continent. It has 15 terminal stations which anchor along the western coast of Africa, including countries where MTN has operations such as Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana and Ivory Coast.

Quoting figures released by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Pienaar says mobile penetration in Africa is the lowest worldwide at 41%, and that Africa still lags behind when it comes to fixed (wired) broadband.

“ Although subscriptions are increasing, a penetration rate of less than 1% illustrates the challenges that persist in increasing access to high-speed, high capacity internet access in the region. We believe that these investments MTN has made in submarine cables will vault Africa into the digital age and afford our subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond the capacity and ability to be part of this growing global village,” says Pienaar.

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