Botswana awaits cheaper internet
By John Churu, Gaborone, Botswana
When an undersea fibre optic cable, in which Botswana has invested USD37.5 million (P281 million), goes live in the first half of May 2013, internet users in Botswana are expected to reap the proceeds of improved internet services, in the form of cheaper rates and a faster service.
The West Africa Cable System (WACS) which carries data and telephony services links Europe to 15 landing stations along the west coast of Africa, including South Africa. Since Botswana has no direct link to the sea, government partnered with Namibia to each raise USD37.5 million (P277.5 million at current rates) to "buy into" the project with other countries.
The two countries own 9.2% of the project, which will be operated on an open access policy with other stakeholders. Due to be launched in Swartkopmund, Namibia in mid-May, WACS will become the latest submarine cable system Botswana since the East Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy).
EASSy went live in early 2012, and immediately lowered internet and mobile costs throughout the country and allowing a five-year plan for further reductions. With a data rate of 5.12 terabits per second, WACS will be superior to EASSy, which at 3.8 terabits per second is already among the fastest in the world. WACS is designed to support present and future internet, e-commerce, data, video and voice services. A high profile launch is planned for Swartkopmund with the presidents of both countries invited to give speeches during proceedings.
It is also expected that Transport and Communications Minister, Nonofo Molefhi and other high profile communications sector officials will travel to Namibia. In a statement, the Botswana Telecommunications Corporation Group CEO, Paul Taylor, said WACS would enhance Botswana's international connectivity by providing the nation with high quality and reliable internet accessibility.
"Broadband access is no longer a privilege but a right to be enjoyed by all citizens," said Taylor. "We are confident that through WACS, internet speed and connectivity will increase considerably at a price that makes internet services affordable for many of our citizens." BTC Group General Manager (Programme Management), Christopher Diswai said the submarine cable would reduce the cost to connect the west coast of Africa to high-speed global telecommunications network for many years to come.
BTC said: “WACS deployment began in 2009 and the four fibre pair system was successfully landed at Swartkopmund, Namibia, on February 8, 2011.”
"The system makes use of technology which is upgradable at any stage of the project. Although Telecom Namibia would operate and maintain the cable landing station, BTC and other stakeholders will have access to the facility, and be able to 'co-locate' their services within the station,” said BTC’s Diswai.