Broadband cable won't be ready for 2010

When it comes to 2010, government leaders are eternal optimists. Do they just have their heads in the sand?

It has now been revealed that despite repeated government assurances, the Broadband Infraco-led undersea cable set to run up the west coast of Africa could be up to six months behind schedule and will not be ready in time for the Fifa World Cup.

Less than a month ago Communications Minister Ivy Matsepe-Casaburri told Parliament that the African west coast cable (AWCC) would come on line in May 2010, the month before the World Cup kicks off on June 11.

However, this week Cornelis Groesbeck, a Department of Public Enterprises consultant close to the AWCC project, told the Mail & Guardian the cable was ‘never intended” to be ready in time for Cup. It would probably come on line some time between October and November 2010.

This brings into question statements made by the department of public enterprises in May and in June that the 13 000km, 3 800-gigabit cable would be ready in time for the tournament.

Groesbeck said the cable was originally intended to come on line in October 2010, but because the agreement governing the relationship between the investors had not been finalised by the deadline of July 1 this year, it could be running late and may be in use only by November.

But he added that the readiness of the cable for the Cup was a ‘red herring”, because there would be sufficient bandwidth capacity on undersea cables by the time the tournament kicks off.

Groesbeck said the 1 200-gigabit Seacom cable, which is expected to be on line in mid-2009, and the upgraded Sat-3 cable, the capacity of which is being doubled to 320-gigabit, would be ready in time.

The bandwidth requirements for the Cup stands at 80-gigabits, which could easily be carried by these cables, he said.

In addition the department had other contingency plans, including completing the section of the cable to Portugal in time or having the section to Nigeria or Senegal completed.

The cable could then be landed in those countries and the traffic transferred to another cable for the rest of the transmission.

Because there are a number of massive fibre projects in the Asia-Pacific region, there is heavy demand on manufacturers and the ships that lay the cables.

However, Groesbeck said the public enterprises department has already selected the company to lay the undersea cable and secured a manufacturing slot for the AWCC cable.

Groesbeck said the department was hoping to secure the financial closure of the project by July 15 2008 and it was still trying to meet that deadline.

Lloyd Gedye

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