afrol News, 15 February - Last week, the powerful WACS submarine fibre optic cable was landed in Swakopmund, Namibia. Now, the work has started to make WACS provide high-speed telecom services to consumers in Namibia and Botswana.
The West Africa Cable System (WACS) is a 14,000 kilometre sub-sea cable that soon will bring direct connectivity between Namibia, West Africa, the UK and the rest of the world, with a design capacity of 5.12 terabit.
According to Telecom Namibia - which together with the governments of Namibia and Botswana financed the estimated US$ 75 million costs of the Swakopmund landing point of the Atlantic Ocean cable - consumers in the two countries can expect commercial high bandwidth services "before the second quarter of this year."
Telecom Namibia has already built most of the land-based infrastructure to the Swakopmund landing station to carry bandwidth to its national network and further to connect to Botswana's national network. Few details therefore lack before new broadband services can be offered.
Telecom companies, government representatives and media in Namibia and Botswana have hailed the landing of the WACS as the beginning of a new era. Both countries expect this key infrastructure development to improve business climate, boost investments and have major effects on the socio-economic development.
Accordingly, the landing of the WACS fibre optic cable was marked with a larger ceremony at Swakopmund, a port town 260 kilometres west of Namibia's capital Windhoek. Namibia's Minister of Communication Technology, Joel Kaapanda, assisted by his Botswana counterpart Frank Ramsden, pulled the underwater cable to the shore to connect it with the landing station.
The cable ship, Le De Brehat, had positioned a day earlier, as crew members prepared the seabed for the landing of the cable. Divers laid the cable on the seabed the previous day, and a crew on shore pulled the cable into the beach manhole the next morning. The cable runs underground from Swakopmund to its connectivity position at the Telecom Namibia technical building situated at the town.
"We are at the dawn of an infrastructure revolution on the Namibian ICT landscape where broadband communication services will be further enhanced to benefit business, industry, internet community, academia and the entire Namibian population," Minister Kaapanda said.
"The capacity of WACS is designed such that it has several terabytes that can sustain Namibia for the next 20 years. With this in place we can expect an increase in data speed, improve voice quality and allow video conferencing through affordable and available bandwidth," Telecom Namibia director Frans Ndoroma added.
Critical voices however doubt whether services in Namibia will be affordable, as Telecom Namibia maintains a monopoly position and so far is charging far higher prices than neighbouring South African providers do for equivalent services. African telecom observer Russell Southwood expects Telecom Namibia will continue "over-charging" for its services.
Meanwhile, the WACS cable is proceeding towards its final point, a landing station being built in South African Yzerfontein.
WACS starts in the UK, with landing stations in Portugal, the Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville and Kinshasa, Angola and Namibia. On 29 January, WACS arrived its landing station in Pointe-Noire in Congo Brazzaville.
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