Image: By BiztechAfrica

The West African Cable System (WACS) cable has been officially launched in Cape Town, South Africa.

The USD650 million undersea cable runs along the West coast of Africa, starting at Yzerfontein near Cape Town, South Africa and terminating in the United Kingdom. It lands in Namibia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Cape Verde, the Canary Islands, Portugal and the United Kingdom, and promises better bandwidth to landlocked nations through networks running inland.

The cable has been developed by a consortium of 1 telecoms carriers, including Angola Cables, Broadband Infraco, Cable and Wireless Worldwide, Cabo Verde Telecom, Congo Telecom, the MTN Group, , Portugal Telecom, SCPT (DRC), Tata Communications, Telecom Namibia, Telkom SA, Togo Telecom, the Vodacom group and Vodafone Spain.

The 5,12 Tb/s system will bring additional bandwidth to regions already served by the SAT3, Glo1 and Main One Cable systems. It is widely hoped that the new cable will bring better bandwidth and help lower bandwidth prices, both along the coastline and inland.

MTN's Global Carrier Services' commercial relations lead for the WACS Consortium, Trevor Martins, says MTN is the largest investor in WACS, with commitments in excess of USD100 million. The company’s terrestrial component of the WACS network was completed last month. Kanaragaratnam Lambotharan, chief technology officer at MTN South Africa, notes that the MTN Group felt WACS would bring much-needed cost effective broadband capacity to the continent, bolstering Africa's efforts to achieve the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals.

Vodacom said the launch marked an important milestone in its ongoing drive to unlock the power of the internet.

Noting that mobile penetration is far higher than fixed line coverage, Vodacom's Chief Technology Officer, Andries Delport said: "It's clear that mobile technology is the quickest and most practical route to spreading Internet access. With a high base of the population already covered, we only need to get two key things in place and South Africa can quite literally take a giant leap forward. The first part is obvious - cheaper smart devices that everyone can afford. The second part is to ensure that the mobile networks can support the data traffic."

"WACS is an important piece in that network puzzle.  Vodacom is investing billions of Rands rolling out new base stations and connecting those base stations into our network via fibre-optic cables. That's fine when the data traffic is just buzzing around within SA, but can hit a bottleneck when it comes to getting data from international websites. WACS addresses this."

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