Somali pirates delay Seacom cable

The threat of Somalian pirates has resulted in a delay in the Seacom undersea cable’s switch on date.

The cable—which was expected to go live on June 27 this year—now has an official launch date of July 8.

The Mail & Guardian understands that the original date was pushed out by just more than a week to build in some slack for the project, which is currently undergoing testing.

Seacom CEO Brian Herlihy said that due to the threat of piracy, the contractor—who was laying the cable in the ocean bed—requested that Seacom remove the tracking system from their website that showed the ship’s current location.

“We had a board agenda item called pirates,” he said.

However he insisted that the cable down the east coast of Africa was now complete and that Seacom was just waiting for the link between India and Africa to be completed.

“We are still on target for June 27,” said Herlihy.

He said there has been a mad scramble by operators and governments in Africa as the activation date draws nearer, with most laying out national fibre networks to take advantage of the cheap international bandwidth the cable will deliver.

Herlihy said that he expects bandwidth prices in South Africa to fall by between 40% and 50%.

He said that South African consumers should see a price war, until the market settles.

Herlihy was speaking from the Mtunzini landing station in KwaZulu-Natal on Thursday afternoon, which is already complete.

Neotel already has access to the station through the transtel communications network on the nearby railroads, while Dark Fibre Africa and Neotel are building links between Durban and Johannesburg.

The project will be the first undersea cable to connect to East Africa from the rest of the world through links to India, the United Kingdom and France.

Besides South Africa, Mozambique, Kenya and Tanzania, the cable will also link to Madagascar, Ethopia and Egypt.

The project is 76,25% African-owned, with South Africa’s Shanduka Group (12,5%), Venfin Limited (25%), Convergence Partners (12,5%) and Kenya’s Industrial Promotion Services (26,25%) all on board. The remaining 23,75% is owned by Herakles Telecom, a New-York-based international development group.

Herlihy says a simple calculation shows that South Africa needs about 50 gigabits of international capacity to service the one million broadband subscribers in the country, but only has 10 gigabits.

“International capacity has been choking the data market in Africa for years now,” says Herlihy.

Initially Seacom will deliver 80 gigabits of international capacity through its cable but can meet more demand easily because the cable has a potential capacity of 1,28 terabits (1 280 gigabits).
Herlihy says Seacom managed to sell two-thirds of the initial capacity of 80 gigabits.

Lloyd Gedye

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