The first submarine fibre system to serve SA along Africa’s west coast in nine years came ashore at Yzerfontein, north of Cape Town, on Tuesday morning.
The 14 000km-long West African Cable System (Wacs), with a design capacity of 5,1Tbit/s, will complement and compete with the 340Gbit/s Sat-3 system, which went into service in 2002. A consortium of operators, led by SA’s Telkom, built Sat-3.
Investors in the Wacs cable include MTN, Vodacom, Telkom, Broadband Infraco and Neotel. The system, which will link SA with London, should be ready for commercial service in the first quarter of 2012. It has 14 landing points.
Johan Meyer, Telkom’s executive for global capacity, says at least 500Gbit/s on the cable, which consists of four fibre pairs, will be lit at launch. He says the design capacity means that, even without compression, the cable can carry 60m simultaneous telephone calls. With compression, that number jumps to 500m calls. The first cable system along Africa’s west coast, a coaxial system launched in 1968, had only 360 telephone channels.
Wacs uses 10Gbit/s wavelength technology. This can be upgraded to 40Gbit/s wavelengths in future, taking the cable’s design capacity to as much as 20Tbit/s.
Various reasons led to the choice of Yzerfontein as the landing point for Wacs. All submarine cables that enter SA are located at either Melkbosstrand, south of Yzerfontein, or at Mtunzini, on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast. Casper Chihaka, managing executive for Telkom wholesale services says events such as earthquakes or a ship dragging its anchor can result in cable outages.
“SA needed a third international fibre gateway to reduce the risk of complete isolation from the rest of the world,” he says.
Wacs is the first of two new high-capacity cables expected to come on stream along this route in the next 18 months. A second cable, the Africa Coast to Europe (Ace) project, is expected to be ready for service in 2012. Ace, which will follow a similar route to Wacs, is backed by France Telecom. — Staff reporter, TechCentral
- Images: Aki Anastasiou