The long-awaited West African Cable System (Wacs), a 14 000 km undersea fibre optic cable linking South Africa to the UK along the West African coast, has gone live – a year after landing in Yzerfontein, in the Western Cape.
The $650-million project, which was funded through a 14-party consortium, offered a design capacity of 5.12 Tb/s and was expected to increase South Africa's broadband capacity by over 500 Gb/s.
The open access cable would enable increased competition in the country and enable infrastructure development as companies develop inland fibre optic routes linking to the submarine cables.
The project was developed by the Wacs consortium, which included MTN, Vodacom, Broadband Infraco, Cable and Wireless and Tata Communications.
Telecommunications group Telkom, which already operated submarine cable gateways at Mtunzini and Melkbostrand, would operate and maintain the cable, with the costs divided between the Wacs consortium members.
Telkom said the commercial availability of Wacs provided the group with significant capacity at each of the three cable gateways into and out the country.
“The demand for greater capacity and faster speeds is ever-present. The introduction of Wacs will deliver connectivity to the continent like never before and Telkom is ready to deliver,” said managing executive of wholesale services Casper Kondo Chihaka.
The introduction of Wacs into Telkom’s undersea cable portfolio would complete its second ring of capacity around African.
Vodacom said the commercial launch of the cable marked a milestone in the drive to “unlock the power of the Internet”, adding 40% to South Africa’s existing international broadband capacity.
Vodacom chief technology officer Andries Delport cautioned, however, that the improved international broadband connectivity would not change the industry overnight. “International connectivity is actually a pretty small part of the overall cost of delivering a megabyte of data via mobile,” he said, but added that the new cable was “most definitely a step in the right direction”.
Neotel said the launch of commercial operations for Wacs meant that its network was even more robust. The company has access to each of South Africa’s established submarine cable systems.
“For Neotel, this means that our customers are highly unlikely to experience downtime since we have flexibility to move traffic from one cable to another in the event of any cable failure,” GM for strategic business development, Angus Hay, commented.
Wacs is the first undersea cable to land in Namibia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo and Togo.
The West African landing stations could also enable inland African countries to increase international broadband penetration through their coastal neighbours. Wacs operates 15 landing stations.