Eassy open for commercial service

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The East Africa Submarine System (Eassy) has been opened for commercial service as final traffic tests by shareholders reach completion.

Speaking today at a press conference in Sandton, Eassy cable management committee chairman Trevor Martins said the system had entered into commercial operation ahead of schedule, on 31 July, approximately 10% below the nearly $300 million budget and at higher capacity.

Initially, the cable was designed to deliver capacity of 60Gbps, Martins said, but after market analysis and subsequent design upgrades the cable will now offer capacity of up to 3.84Tbps.

More than 25 telecommunications operators, mainly from Africa, along with a number of global operators who invested in Eassy, have commenced customer service on the cable. Local investors include Neotel, Telkom, MTN and Vodacom.

The cable will be the second to deliver international bandwidth in SA, connecting SA with eight other African countries. It will also offer transit connectivity through backhaul networks into at least 12 landlocked countries.

Eassy will also be the first east coast system to carry traffic on a direct route to Europe. Other east coast systems use a longer path to reach Europe, via connections in either India or UAE, meaning longer transit times for traffic.

Martins argued that the system was constructed along the shortest route to Europe to ensure the lowest possible latency for connectivity.

Increased competition

For many countries, Eassy will be the first undersea cable system to deliver international bandwidth. However, this will be SA's second cable, which Martins said would go far in terms of ramping up competition in the industry.

An alternative cable will drive down wholesale costs which will filter through to the retail market and eventually the consumer, he explained. He added that this scenario would be dependent on market players and review of other costs to deployment.

“The Eassy investment model that was agreed on sometime back with the involvement of key stakeholders including the Development Bank Institutions did not only deliver full funding for Eassy but also assured key developmental and competitive principles such as open access, even for those countries that had no investor representation in Eassy,” explained Chris Wood, CEO of WIOCC, the largest investor in Eassy.

Wood explained that the cable not only represented increased competition but also a safety net as SA's economy becomes increasingly reliant on the Internet.

“Eassy delivery at this time introduces a significant competitive element in the broadband capacity market in the region that will additionally ensure affordable rates to end-users, concluded Samson Matibini, Eassy financial and administration subcommittee chairperson.

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