With Ace, subsea cable rush nears end - TechCentral

With Ace, subsea cable rush nears end

Steve Song

Steve Song

The Africa Coast to Europe (Ace) submarine cable could be among the last major international broadband systems to land on South African shores for some time, says an expert.

The Ace cable system currently stretches 11 500km and connects France to countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Benin in West Africa.

But the Ace consortium, led by French telecommunications operator Orange, has announced that the second phase of the network will be extended 5 000km from the Gulf of Guinea island of Sao Tomé-et-Principe to South Africa.

Networking company Alcatel-Lucent is tasked with building the cable and it said on Wednesday that once the second phase of the cable is completed, the overall design capacity will be 12,8Tbit/s.

However, experts have said that the Ace cable is likely to be among the last to connect to South Africa, at least for the time being.

Since 2009, major subsea cables connecting to South Africa include Seacom, Sat-3, Safe, Eassy and Wacs. “I can’t imagine another cable connecting to South Africa directly at this time,” said Steve Song, a local telecoms policy activist and founder of the Village Telco project.

“It is likely that there will be another cable connecting Africa to Brazil but this seems likely to land either in Angola or Cameroon. South Africa will have to connect to it through another undersea or terrestrial network,” Song said.

Song explained that South Africa has “a lot of capacity already” with the cables that it has, but that the Ace cable will help with redundancy and choice for operators. In turn, this could bring costs down, said Song.

“The organisations that stand to benefit the most are existing customers of the Ace cable because once Ace reaches South Africa, it will be able to offer redundancy to its customers in the event of a cable break,” Song said.

“Currently if there is a cable interruption on Ace, everything south of the break is disconnected. By connecting to South Africa, traffic can be routed via Seacom/Eassy/Safe even if there is a cable break. And of course DRC, Angola and Namibia also stand to benefit from the additional undersea cable competition,” said Song.

The Ace cable also helps to solidify South Africa’s role in Africa as a regional access hub amid competition from the likes of Nigeria and Kenya, said Song.

Song’s comments echo those of Seacom CEO Byron Clatterbuck, who said last month that South Africa has enough international capacity but that the challenge lies with connecting the last mile in cities and towns.

Seacom itself has this year officially launched an enterprise unit to supply high-speed connectivity and cloud services to corporates in South Africa

“Certainly, the challenge is not on the international side and that’s what we’ve seen,” Clatterbuck said.  — Fin24


  1. Now if the bastards can somehow in my lifetime give us uncapped, unshaped, unthrottled international speeds of over 4Mbit for less than R1000 a month, that would be great. I had completely unlimited 16mbit ADSL in London back in 2004 for less than 40 pounds a month. And that’s more than 10 years ago. Having a fast local network doesn’t mean anything.

  2. My prediction: The year 2050 8mbit ADSL is now available on all exchanges in South Africa 😉

  3. Ofentse Letsholo on

    4Mbps needs to go away, I understand we are not America or UK or the “best” Asia but some speeds just need to be left behind. I’d say 16Mbps that’s symmetrical…16up and down, damn that would he awesome as a START. If only Fibre was so deployed as Telkom Landlines we would be on another level in this country…unfortunately even US doesn’t have Fiber all over.

  4. Lets not get too optimistic! From 512k in for average folk in 2001 to 4Mbs in 2015 for us afforbables. By that evaluation we should all achieve 100mbps with affordability by 2025. As they say relax this is Africa.

  5. Greg Mahlknecht on

    All Telkom’s exchanges are ADSL capable – but yes, the 8mbit would be a push with the state of the lines – also, they’re just so badly marketed and priced that not many people want it / can afford it.

  6. Because we have far greater distances in South Africa as well as a much smaller middle class, they might rather use LTE or 3G or even WiFi to connect us all, but they need to think of high turnover based rates so that everyone can afford the data for a flat rate of R200 a month or so. It will drive adoption at a much faster rate. At the moment the only organisation that can really drive ADSL implementation is government it seems. No private company has taken up the task of laying their own copper at such a scale as Telkom. I just wish they would make it aa crucial priority as fast and cheap internet access drives local business and has shown to be the main response to fighting poverty. we need to all be connected.

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