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12 June 2012 | Economy & Investments

MTN To Use WACS To Transform Economies

The introduction of West Africa Cable Systems (WACS), Africa’s largest capacity submarine fibre optic cable, is set to address both technological shortfalls experienced by most of Africa’s disadvantaged communities, and stimulate economic growth in those countries, Mr Michael Ikpoki, MTN Ghana Chief Executive Officer, has said.

“Broadband has immense potential to change the socio-economic landscape of African countries,” he said, adding that “Over the last year, our operations in West Africa have experienced a good growth in data volumes, and this trend is repeated throughout our other operations across the continent”.

According to him, this is a strong indication of the huge latent demand for access to quality broadband services and facilities throughout Africa.

It has been six years since MTN boldly pioneered and committed more than US$ 100 million to WACS.

A couple of weeks ago, there was the commercial launch of the much-anticipated ultra-high-capacity WACS, which links southern and western Africa to Europe.

The 17,200 km fibre optic submarine cable system will effectively raise South Africa’s current broadband capacity by more than 500 Gigabits per second (Gbps).

This will be a much-needed boost to MTN in South Africa, where consumer appetite for data quadrupled during 2011 with data consumption going up by approximately 200 per cent year-on-year.

In the same period, smart phones usage increased by 128 per cent to 3.6 million users, while data users soared to 10.9 million. WACS spans the west coast of Africa, starting at Yzerfontein, near Cape Town, South Africa, and terminating in the United Kingdom.

The system will enable MTN operations to enjoy seamless connectivity to the rest of Europe and the Americas. The 4-fibre pair system was constructed at an approximate project cost of US$650 million.

MTN’s Global Carrier Services’ Commercial Relations Lead for the WACS Consortium, Trevor Martins, is quoted as saying that MTN identified that the most efficient manner to advance the initiative to construct the WACS system was through a collaborative infrastructure co-build consortium investment model of like-minded operators.

“It was critical for MTN to ensure direct access into its markets in West Africa, and linking efficient system design with multiple landing points Accordingly, WACS has 15 established terminal stations along its route, including Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Republic of Congo and Namibia – all countries where MTN has a presence,” he said.

MTN is the largest investor in WACS, with commitments in excess of US$ 100 million, comprising US$90 million system capital contribution and additional capital investments towards the construction of cable landing facilities in Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire.

MTN’s investment in WACS forms part of the Group’s global portfolio of submarine cable investments, managed by MTN Dubai Global Carrier Services.

In addition to complementing other existing cable systems in the region, as well as supplying first-time fibre connectivity to several West African countries, WACS will provide much-needed diversity for large volume broadband traffic from South Africa to Europe.

The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at MTN South Africa, Kanaragaratnam Lambotharan, said; “The impact of MTN’s investments in Africa is far-reaching.”

As the pre-eminent African operator, MTN is excited about the prospects brought by the cable to our markets, the CTO said.

He said MTN’s ownership of WACS, together with its considerable interest in EASSy (Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System), will provide MTN with critical route diversity to Europe, from both sides of the continent.

This will ensure a unique offering of increased resilience and unsurpassed availability of broadband connectivity to MTN customers.

Africa has, until now, been a pedestrian on the information superhighway. But it is anticipated that MTN’s investment in WACS will now ensure that millions of MTN customers can speed along the global information superhighway by accessing huge capacities with the ability to optimally utilise data and telemetry offerings which modern telephony applications provide.

MTN’s investment in WACS is designed to support present and future demands for high speed Internet, e-commerce, data ICT, cloud, video and voice services.

This can be achieved as the WACS cable employs Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) technology, which enables bidirectional communications over one strand of fibre, as well as enhancement of capacity.

Also, due to the robustness of the design, the cable system can incorporate future developments in submarine fibre-optic technology.

The commercialisation of WACS and our other submarine cables will set the stage for a mobile revolution that will enhance the quality of life for millions of people across the continent.

In South Africa, MTN’s terrestrial segment of WACS was completed in April this year, with a total provisioned capacity of 60GB.

The MTN terrestrial optical network consists of leading telecommunications technology with DWDM (Dense wavelength division multiplexing) and ASON (Automatic Switch Optical Network) at its core, providing high availability, bandwidth provision and service restoration. GB

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