Seacom hunts for investors in race to link EA to high speed Internet

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

A South African company last week raised the stakes in the race to connect East Africa to the global network of high speed Internet with an aggressive drive to recruit local private investors for its South East Africa Communication project - Seacom.

In coming to Nairobi in search of investors, Seacom literally brought the battle to the doorsteps of the Government that is fronting for the EastAfrican Marine System (TEAMS) and has been shopping for investors to buyinto the project.

Seacom also runs parallel to the East African Submarine System (EASSy) -- a regional initiative to connect Eastern Africa to the global network ofhigh speed Internet via South Africa.

Brian Herlihy, the Seacom boss, told investors that construction of the cable is set to begin in September with the completion date set for March 2009. This means that all the three initiatives have set a time line for the first quarter of 2009.

A meeting organized by TEAMS financial arranger Standard Chartered Bank ended in disarray after the bank failed to answer most of the investors' questions. Top in the list of questions was the minimum equity a private or corporate company willing to invest in the project should contribute.

For onward connectivity, Seacom is working with a number of telecommunications companies for special landing rights. The company said it was negotiating with Indian telecommunication group VSNL to link Eastern Africa with South East Asia and the Middle East. This means it will be able to interconnect with a large number of Europe's submarine and terrestrial cables.

Herlihy said the company had signed an agreement with Neotel, South Africa's second national operator for landing rights. Other landing sites will be in Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, India and Italy with a possibility of hooking up with United Arab Emirates.

On capacity, Seacom said it was planning much higher capacity compared to EASSy. While EASSy will initially be equipped with a capacity of 20Gbits per second and an ultimate capacity of 320 Gbits per second, Seacom will provide 1280 Gbits per second -- four times faster than EASSy.

(Source: Business Daily)