The Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy) consortium has signed an agreement with Alcatel-Lucent to undertake the implementation and construction of an undersea fibre-optic cable network. Sources close to the deal said the French infrastructure provider was awaiting financial approval from funding agencies to commence the project. ‘Financial close of the EASSy project is expected to be concluded in the coming weeks when the physical implementation and construction of the cable system will commence,’ said Sammy Kirui, chairman of the EASSy project management committee. Alcatel-Lucent won a tender to build the EASSy system on a full turnkey basis in July 2006, when the total cost of the project was estimated at USD300 million. The launch of commercial services over the planned network is scheduled for the third quarter of 2008.
The EASSy project is aimed at easing the costs of linking eastern Africa to worldwide networks, and is being developed under a USD235 million construction and maintenance agreement signed by 25 parties. The consortium includes 22 telecom operators representing 20 countries, 90% of which are African companies. The EASSy submarine network will span 9,900km, linking eight countries from Sudan to South Africa via Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar and Mozambique. Landings will be located in Port Sudan, Djibouti (Djibouti), Mogadishu (Somalia) Mombasa (Kenya), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Toliary (Madagascar), Maputo (Mozambique) and Mtunzini (South Africa). The initial capacity will be 20Gbps with ultimate capacity of 320Gbps per fibre pair.
A special purpose holding vehicle (SPV), West Indian Ocean Cable Company Limited, has been set up to invest 40% of the equity into the EASSy project, with 60% of the investment directly committed by telecoms operators. The development finance institutions supporting the project include the International Finance Corporation, Development Bank of South Africa, African Development Bank, European Investment Bank, KfW Bankengruppe and Agence Française de Développement.