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Cable Compendium: a guide to the week’s submarine and terrestrial developments

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6 Jul 2018

The South Atlantic Cable System (SACS), which is due to connect Africa and South America, will enter commercial operations in the next three months. Antonio Nunes, CEO of SACS’ main backer Angola Cables, told TechCentral that the deployment is now complete, with testing expected to be finalised by late July or early August: ‘One issue is that [the construction of] the data centre in Fortaleza is a little bit late, so we need a way to start deploying the service on the SACS system before the data centre is ready. It will not be later than September.’ As previously reported by TeleGeography’s Cable Compendium, construction work on the 6,165km cable commenced in Luanda (Angola) in December 2017 and landed at the port of Pecem in the city of Fortaleza (Brazil) in February this year. Onward connectivity is provided via interconnection with the Monet Cable linking Miami (US) to Sao Paolo in Brazil. Angola Cables hired equipment vendor NEC to deploy the system, with Orange Marine in charge of the deep-water laying phase of the cable rollout.

Eric Alberto, chief revenue officer at Filipino telco PLDT, has informed Business World that his company will switch on its connection to the Asia-Africa-Europe 1 (AAE-1) cable system during the third quarter of 2018. Once live, the link will bring PLDT’s total international capacity to 4Tbps. The company partnered with Hong Kong-based telco PCCW Global for the project. The 25,000km network – owned by a consortium of 19 global service providers – connects Asia, the Middle East, East Africa and Europe. AAE-1 is described as ‘the longest 100Gbps technology-based submarine system’ and offers design capacity of over 40Tbps. The fibre-optic system was certified ready for service (RFS) in June 2017.

Australia’s Vocus Group has enlisted Nokia’s Alcatel Submarine Networks unit to build its 4,000km Coral Sea Cable System (CSCS), which will link Australia to Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. The cable is expected to be completed by late-2019. Vocus was awarded the AUD137 million (USD101 million) contract by the Australian government last month.

Over in Europe, Italian infrastructure provider Retelit has extended the availability of 100Gbps transport services to Sicily, as a result of the AAE-1 cable being connected to the Open HUB MED Carini Datacentre. Retelit – an investor in both the AAE-1 cable and HUB MED – claims that it is the ‘only operator capable of providing multiple submarine and land restoration connectivity options between Bari and Palermo to Marseilles’.

The Madras High Court has upheld a decision granting powers to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to issue regulations relating to access charges levied by owners of cable landing stations (CLS), while it cancelled an order which drastically lowered the tariff. The TRAI had previously amended the ‘International Telecommunication Access to Essential Facilities at Cable Landing Stations Regulations’ and taken over the power to decide the charges levied by CLS’ owners for granting access to the facility to domestic operators –a move which was subsequently challenged by Tata Communications and Bharti Airtel. The court, however, cancelled the tariff fixed by TRAI in 2012 – slashing charges levied by CLS owners to one-tenth of the existing tariff – pointing to a lack of transparency. It directed the TRAI to redo the process in accordance with the existing laws within six months.

Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) has confirmed the launch of its network in Zimbabwe as it looks to expand its business beyond South Africa and extend its existing 10,000km fibre network. Vino Govender, acting chief strategy officer at DFA, commented: ‘We’ve got a set way through which we evaluate opportunities based on the current regulatory environment and market potential, and the risk outlook … While we have now entered Zimbabwe, there are other countries in sub-Saharan Africa that we are currently evaluating before moving even further.’ Govender refused to be drawn on speculation naming DFA as the target of a ZAR10 billion (USD733.7 million) takeover approach by Internet Solutions, however.

Sticking with South Africa, last month Community Investment Ventures Holdings (CIVH) acquired 34.9% of Vumatel, for an undisclosed amount. The company has also entered into an agreement with Vumatel shareholders to acquire the remaining 65.1% of Vumatel, subject to funding and regulatory approvals, following which CIVH will hold 100% of Vumatel. CIVH’s investment in Vumatel complements its existing telecoms infrastructure portfolio, which includes the aforementioned DFA.

Further, FibreCo, a joint venture between Cell C, Dimension Data and Convergence Partners, plans to connect towns on its national backhaul routes to its fibre infrastructure, starting with Kroonstad in the northern Free State, it has revealed. Kroonstad is the Free State’s third largest town after Bloemfontein and Welkom.

Elsewhere in Africa, Guinea’s telecoms watchdog the Autorite de Regulation des Postes et Telecommunications (ARPT) has published an update on the deployment of the country’s fibre-optic National Backbone project by the Societe de Gestion et d’Exploitation du Backbone National (SOGEB). According to the ARPT, a 360km fibre route running from Kankan to N’Zerekore via Kerouane and Beyla has now been completed, as well as the Conakry-Mamou, Mamou-Labe, Mamou-Kankan and Conakry-Boke routes. The link from Faranah to N’Zerekore via Kissidougou-Gueckedou-Macenta is 90% complete, while the Boke-Gaoual-Kounsitel-Popodara-Labe route was 92% complete. The 4,000km national fibre-optic backbone project was first revealed in February 2012, with Huawei winning the USD238 million deployment contract in December 2012.

Finally, Senegalese operator Sonatel has completed the rollout of a 232km fibre-optic link between Kolda and Bignona and is currently constructing a 260km link between Tambacounda and Kolda. To further extend the national fibre backbone, the operator also intends to deploy infrastructure along the following routes: Thiaroye-Thies (70km), Thiaroye-Somone-Saly-Mbour (100km) and Touba-Darou Mousty-Kebemer (100km).

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