TEAMs begins laying cable as deadline looms
Laying of the Sh10.4 billion ($130 million) undersea fibre optic cable -the East Africa Marine System (TEAMs)- started on Friday and is expected to take two months in a race to beat the June deadline.
This follows inspection of the manufactured cables, trenching equipment and commissioning of the shore-end cable at the Fujairah port by board members of the TEAMs project in United Arab Emirates.
But there have been security concerns following hijacking of ships by pirates along the Somalia coastline, which prompted the cable to be moved an extra 200 kilometres further into the sea and the government to seek security support from foreign marine navies to avoid delays as a result of a hijacking.
“Yes, stringent security measures have been put in place. But because of the security of the cable ship , we cannot share the specific details of the same,” said Mr Michael Joseph, the chair, TEAMs cable.
Mr Joseph said he expects the cable to land in Mombasa by mid June.
He said there has been a minimal increase to the project cost on account of the security situation, but that this increase has been absorbed by the contingency provisions that were previously factored into the overall project value.
The commissioning of the 5,000 kilometre cable comes after the laying of shore end cable by its other competitor, Seacom, at the Mombasa port and announcement by Eassy that it has started manufacturing its cables. Both Teams and Seacom have set their deadlines for this June.
Seacom has given its price for wholesale bandwidth purchase as low as $100 while Mr Joseph says they are working on developing the wholesale costs for the sale of capacity from TEAMs to the shareholders.
Currently, operators rely on satellite connectivity that charges them Sh399,360 ($ 5,000) per megabyte a month, but this is expected to reduce to Sh15,974 ($ 200) for the same capacity and put Kenya at par with countries like India and Philippines, which it hopes to compete with in the Business Process Outsourcing. The cable will be connected to amongst other terrestrial fibre optic cables, the National Optic Fibre Backbone Infrastructure (NOFBI) once it lands in Mombasa.
The NOFBI has already connected Kenya’s major towns and border points, while connections to district headquarters is almost complete.
TEAMS project shareholding ratio includes Safaricom, Telkom Kenya and the Government of Kenya all with 20 per cent of the shares, (KDN) Kenya Data Network with 10 per cent, Wananchi Online with 5 per cent; Jamii Telecom; 3.5 per cent and Access Kenya and Flashcom; 1.25 per cent. Others are Econet and Africa Fibre Net of Uganda.
The Kenyan shareholders have pledged US$110 million (Sh8.6 billion) while the difference will be raised by United Arab Emirates Telecom Operator, Etisalat.