New sea cable could lower broadband costs

The Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable could be among the last major international broadband systems to land on South African shores for some time, says an expert. But it may bring down costs.

The ACE cable system stretches 11 500 km and connects France to countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Benin in West Africa.

But the ACE consortium, led by French telecoms operator Orange, announced last week that the second phase of the network will be extended by 5 000km from the Gulf of Guinea island of Sao Tomé-et-Principe to South Africa.

Networking company Alcatel-Lucent has been tasked with building the cable and it said earlier this week that once the second phase of the cable is complete, the overall design capacity will be 12.8 terabit/s.

But experts have said that the ACE cable is likely to be among the last to connect to South Africa, at least for the time being.

Since 2009, major subsea cables connecting to South Africa include Seacom, SAT-3, SAFE (South Africa Far East cable), EASSy (the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System) and WACS (West Africa Cable System). “I can’t imagine another cable connecting to South Africa directly at this time,” said Steve Song, a local telecommunications policy activist and founder of the Village Telco project.

“It is likely that there will be another cable connecting Africa to Brazil but this seems likely to land either in Angola or Cameroon. South Africa will have to connect to it through another undersea or terrestrial network,” said Song.

He said South Africa has “a lot of capacity already” with the cables that it has, but that the ACE cable will help with redundancy and choice for operators. This could in turn bring costs down, he added.

“The organisations that stand to benefit the most are existing customers of the ACE cable, because once ACE reaches South Africa, it will be able to offer redundancy to its customers in the event of a cable break,” said Song.

“Currently, if there is a cable interruption on ACE, everything south of the break is disconnected. By connecting to South Africa, traffic can be routed via Seacom/EASSy/SAFE even if there is a cable break. And of course DRC, Angola and Namibia also stand to benefit from the additional undersea cable competition,” said Song.

The ACE cable helps solidify South Africa’s role in Africa as a regional access hub amid competition from the likes of Nigeria and Kenya, said Song.

Song’s comments echo those of Seacom chief executive Byron Clatterbuck, who said last month that South Africa has enough international capacity but that the challenge lies with connecting the last mile in cities and towns.

Seacom has this year officially launched an enterprise unit to supply high-speed connectivity and cloud services to corporates in South Africa 

“Certainly, the challenge is not on the international side and that’s what we’ve seen,” said Clatterbuck last month. –

PW Botha wagged his finger and banned us in 1988 but we stood firm. We built a reputation for fearless journalism, then, and now. Through these last 35 years, the Mail & Guardian has always been on the right side of history.

These days, we are on the trail of the merry band of corporates and politicians robbing South Africa of its own potential.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Soundtrack to a pandemic: Africa’s best coronavirus songs

Drawing on lessons from Ebola, African artists are using music to convey public health messaging. And they are doing it in style

In East Africa, the locusts are coming back for more

In February the devastating locust swarms were the biggest seen in East Africa for 70 years. Now they’re even bigger

Western Cape Judge Mushtak Parker faces second misconduct complaint

The Cape Bar Council says his conduct is ‘unbecoming the holding of judicial office’

‘My biggest fear was getting the virus and dying in...

South African Wuhan evacuee speaks about his nine-week ordeal

Press Releases

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders

Dimension Data launches Saturday School in PE

The Gauteng Saturday School has produced a number of success stories