Botswana: Consortium Brings Cheaper Internet Connectivity


The much-anticipated undersea fibre optic cable linking Africa to Europe is expected to bring cheaper internet connectivity to Botswana before the end of the year after a local consortium clinched a $38 million deal with wholesale bandwidth provider Seacom.

Abari Communications, a majority citizen-owned consortium said its bandwidth deal is five times bigger than the current capacity in the country. The company said the increased capacity will result in high speed Internet and a drastic reduction in costs.

"The prices will gradually go down because we use an open system model, whereby we offer the same price to all internet service operators," Abari Communications managing director, Neo Nwako said after the launch of the deal on Tuesday.

The Seacom 17,000 kilometre cable will link Gaborone through Mtunzini town in South Africa via Johannesburg. In other parts of the region Seacom had to develop its own backhaul to link the marine cabling but in Botswana it will use existing fibre optic networks. Botswana currently has 500 mbps of internet capacity. The country has been relying on the more expensive satellites connectivity which charges as high as $6,000 dollars per megabyte.

The Seacom international fibre bandwidth offering will result in Botswana accessing about 2,300 megawatts of high speed Internet capacity. This allows information to be sent at speeds of about 1.28 terabytes per second, fast enough to stream high-definition video.

Seacom Africa Project Manager, John Mathwasa said at the launch that internet prices fell by as much as 30 percent in countries where they launched the high capacity bandwidth.

Seacom offers uniform pricing for its bandwidth across the region. The company publishes the prices to ensure transparency. African Business Process Outsourcing firms (call centres) are expected to be among the big winners in the new development. The call centres will be able to compete on a level platform with their counterparts in the Asian economies.

Besides Botswana, the $600 million Seacom cable project links Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique to India and Europe. Botswana is also party to other marine cable service providers competing with Seacom to serve the African region. These include the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), the East African Marine System (TEAMs) and West African Cable System (WACS).

The Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi said they are currently in negotiations with all the sea cable providers to make Botswana an ICT hub in the region.

"I don't see a reason why not all the providers cannot come to Botswana even if we are a landlocked country," she said. The Minister said Cape Town has served the region well as a switch point and it is time for a landlocked country like Botswana to enter the fray in case of disasters at sea. "I want to see Botswana as a future data bank and I don't see a reason why not," she said.

Mmegi/The Reporter