While the arrival of the Seacom undersea cable is great news for international bandwidth starved South Africa, the launch on Thursday at Neotel’s Midrand data centre was more damp squib than monumental occasion.
While guests and the media watched a video from Tanzania, where Seacom CEO Brian Herlihy and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete officially launched East Africa’s first undersea cable, techies sat glued to their laptops testing upload and download speeds and trying to one-up each other with Twitter tweets.
Tech journalists, bloggers and Twitter users provided a running commentary on the proceedings and most chose to focus on the high-speed services that Seacom will deliver to South Africa, which is appropriate because that’s where the real story of Seacom lies, especially for South Africa.
For years, South Africa has been held to ransom by Telkom and its monopoly over Africa’s only undersea cable, Sat-3.
In the front line
Techies get to grips with the new Seacom cable at its launch at Neotel’s headquarters in Midrand on Thursday. (Lisa Skinner, M&G)
However, now there’s a new kid in town. Seacom has landed and hopefully the massive reduction in bandwidth costs (up to 40% have been promised) will come to fruition.
The fact that Telkom recently announced that consortium members who control the Sat-3 cable have decided to treble capacity next month, seems to suggest that Telkom is aware that competition has arrived on its doorstep.
However, questions must be asked about why the Sat-3 consortium has waited until Seacom’s launch to make a move. Could it be a mere coincidence? Or has the consortium been squeezing every last cent out of Africa?
This sense of aggravation was borne out in comments made by Shanduka Group chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa, a major investor in Seacom, who said the launch of Seacom signalled the ‘end of our frustration”.
Ramaphosa said that Seacom would serve as ‘a catalyst for the east and south of Africa to speed up its economic development”.
‘The benefits we will see from this will be enormous,” said Ramaphosa.
‘We, as the Shanduka group, are proud to be involved in this project.”
‘End of our frustration’
Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the crowd at the Seacom launch on Thursday afternoon. (Lisa Skinner, M&G)