More bandwidth incoming

Candice Jones
By Candice Jones, ITWeb online telecoms editor
Johannesburg, 30 Mar 2010

South Africans who have been watching the broadband boom with interest will be pleased to know more international bandwidth competition is on the horizon.

The last segment of the East African Submarine System (Eassy) is expected be connected by the end of the month, with the section into Dar es Salaam scheduled to land this week. SA already has its landing station in KwaZulu-Natal and the two segments will be joined to create the final full cable.

If the cable does undergo the “final slice” this month, it will put it on track to go live with a commercial service by August, the deadline investors have pegged for its services to be available.

The landing of Eassy follows hot on the heels of the Seacom cable, which landed last year. Seacom's landing has been credited with reshaping SA's Internet industry, with plummeting local broadband prices beginning to change the way South Africans use bandwidth.

The $260 million Eassy cable is expected to add its muscle to the current broadband war, with several local bigwig telcos investing in the undersea fibre. MTN, Neotel and Telkom are SA's top investors in the cable.

They join international telecoms giants, including Bharti Airtel, British Telecom, Etisalat and France Telecom, in the long-distance venture. The West Indian Ocean Cable Company is the largest investor and driver of the project.

Once completed, Eassy will sport 10 000km fibre-optic running on the ocean floor, along the east coast of Africa. It will connect Sudan to SA, with landing stations in Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania Comoros, Madagascar and Mozambique.

Consortium members are also running terrestrial fibre networks into the countries that have landing stations out to countries that need connectivity, including Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland and Lesotho.

Eassy will run at 1.4Tbps, compared with Seacom's 1.28Tbps, which will boost speeds of international traffic from and to Africa.

Telkom, as an investor, says the new cable will introduce real pricing pressure, which it has already seen since the landing of Seacom. Telkom landed the SAT3 and Safe cables in SA, and has had sole control over the international broadband market for years.

However, Telkom says the costs on SAT3 have already plummeted, with the price for an STM-1 (155Mbps) connection now sitting at R1 million with redundancy and R599 000 for a service that is not backed up.