SA’s giant new sub-sea cable is here - TechCentral

SA’s giant new sub-sea cable is here

Angus Hay

The 14 000km West African Cable System (Wacs), the first new sub-sea telecommunications cable along Africa’s west coast since Sat-3 was launched 11 years ago, will be launched officially in about a month’s time.

Angus Hay, co-chair of the Wacs management committee and chief technology officer at Neotel, says testing of Wacs has progressed well and the system is “essentially ready” for commercial service.

An official launch function will take place next month at Yzerfontein, the site of the cable’s SA landing north of Cape Town. Commercial traffic should begin flowing across the system at the same time or shortly thereafter, promising to put further downward pressure on broadband prices in SA.

The cable, which has a design capacity of 5,1Tbit/s and which has cost US$600m (almost R5bn at the current exchange rate) to build, will probably have in the region of 400Gbit/s of capacity “lit” when it becomes available for commercial service — that’s more than the total design capacity of the older Sat-3 cable at 340Gbit/s.

Hay says the Wacs management committee is in the process of “accepting” the cable from the supplier, Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks. This entails signing off the final contractual agreements. “Final testing is now taking place,” he adds.

Neotel has been commissioned to run the primary network operating centre, or NOC, for Wacs. The NOC will be based at Neotel’s data centre in Johannesburg.

A range of companies will provide the backhaul connections from Wacs into national networks. They include Telkom, Neotel and Dark Fibre Africa.

Hay says testing has progressed smoothly. “We are almost there,” he says.

Hay can’t comment on how Internet service providers and operators are likely to react in terms of their consumer retail prices when the system becomes available, but he says that, as with other cable systems that have come on stream in recent years, it will improve competition. “It will have beneficial effects downstream.”

He adds that many service providers have already begun working Wacs into their business models and their future plans and a big step change in pricing, as seen when Seacom went live on the east coast in 2009, is unlikely.

Wacs is the first of three new cable systems that are expected to serve SA along Africa’s west coast. The France Telecom-led Africa Coast to Europe (Ace) cable, which has the same design capacity as Wacs, is expected to be ready for commercial service within the next year, while SA’s eFive Telecommunications is leading a project to build the South Atlantic Express (SAex) cable between Angola, SA and Fortaleza in Brazil.  — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media

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