Phase3 Telecoms to open Lagos-Accra terrestrial route in Q2, 2010 and set to go inland to landlocked countries

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Another West African fibre route along the seaboard from Lagos to Accra will open up in Q2 of next year. Nigerian carriers’ carrier Phase3 Telecoms has signed an agreement with power utility Communauté Electrique du Bénin to lay and operate aerial fibre along its network. Russell Southwood spoke to Stanley Jegede, CEO of Phase3 Telecoms about how it will work.

Q: What’s your agreement with Communauté Electrique du Bénin (CEB)?

A: It’s a concession agreement where we will design, build and operate infrastructure for 15 years. Their power line network covers both Benin and Togo and we are laying aerial fibre overt 161 kV high voltage lines. On the basis of this infrastructure, we will create a route that goes from Lagos through Benin and Togo to Accra.

A: We have started the work of laying the fibre and the total extent of the network will be somewhere between 3,000-4,000 kilometres.

Q: Where does the CEB power network extend to in the north?

A: It goes right up to Karimama in Benin which is on the border of Niger and across the middle of the two countries in an upturned U-shape: from Parakou in Benin to Atakpama in Togo via Oujougou and Sokode.

Q: When will the Lagos-Accra route be ready?

A: It will be operational in Q2, 2010 and we have allowed ourselves between now and the end of Q1 to build the route and install the transmission equipment.

Q: What’s the extent of your domestic network in Nigeria?

A: It goes over 132 kV and 330 kV high voltage lines in several large rings. From the north at Sokoto it goes down the western side of the country to Lagos and then travels across the southern part of the country from Lagos to Benin ,with an extension to Port Harcourt opening soon. It then goes up the middle of the country to Jos and Kano, with an extension being built to Katsina. We also have an extension from the main ring at Lagos to Sakete in Benin.

Q: How will you connect from Togo into Accra?

Phase3 will work closely with Vodafone to carry traffic into Accra and on to the SAT3 landing station.

Q: What kind of customers are you serving in Nigeria?

A: It includes the major mobile companies like Globacom and Zain and the CDMA operators like Intercellular and Visafone. On top of that, we’re carrying traffic for ISPs, banks and government.

We’re offering anything from an E1 to an STM1 and connecting to Nitel’s SAT3 landing station. When the new route opens, we’ll be connecting to Benin Telecom’s SAT3 landing station in Cotonou and Vodafone’s landing station in Accra. This will give our clients a number of redundancy options and choice in terms of prices from different landing stations.

Q: Will the customer base for your new route be the same as for your domestic network in Nigeria?

A: To a large extent, it will be as these categories of customers exist in all West African countries. The telcos particularly need to interconnect with operators in other countries.

Currently there is no redundant link and we’ll be well positioned to provide a self-healing ring between Lagos and Accra, with the redundant route using the new submarine cables between Accra and Lagos.

Q: Do you think there will be much voice traffic between these countries?

A: I think that between Lagos and Accra there is and if we extend to Cote d’Ivoire there will also be relatively high volumes but there’s probably not much between Benin and Togo, although this will grow over time.

Q: How will be affected by the introduction of the four new international cables (Glo One, Main One, WACS and ACE)?

A: It will affect us positively because once the bandwidth gets to the coast, it’s got to be distributed inland and our aerial fibre infrastructure can be used to do that. We’ve got rights of way that extend right up to the borders of Burkina Faso and Niger and we’re potentially better placed than anyone else to deliver international bandwidth to those two countries. It’s in our best interest to collaborate with the international fibre operators because complement one another.

Q: What will prices be on the Lagos-Accra route?

A: We’re currently working on the numbers but we’ll certainly be a cheaper value proposition than other operators.

Correction: Issue 475: African universities will buy 60 Gb of bandwidth and set up a continental network. UbuntuNet Alliance’s CEO Tusu Tusubira would like to make clear that with what African universities currently spend on international connectivity, they would be able to buy 60 gbps if it was sold at prices similar to Europe:”The biggest challenge many universities face is that of any poor person anywhere in the world: they have to buy everything they need in little quantities on a daily basis. They end up spending much more than a rich person who buys in bulk and maybe once or twice a month. Therefore, while African universities are paying this money, they are unable to marshal it in one go to take advantage of some very attractive offers currently on the table. I also said trust has been a major challenge, but that is being gradually overcome: we are not yet there.”