ACE still coming, but Sentech is out of the picture

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Baharicom has refuted speculation that the R5.4bn ACE cable is no longer coming to South Africa’s shores. TechCentral reported earlier on Monday about growing speculation that the cable, which runs from France, will terminate instead at São Tomé and Príncipe, a Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa.

The speculation prompted Steve Song, author of a well-known cable map, to recraft the map to show Ace terminating at São Tomé. Baharicom, one of the larger investors in ACE, says the cable is still expected to arrive on South Africa’s shores sometime between August and October next year. However, Sentech, the original landing partner, is no longer involved.

Parliament revealed last year that Sentech had signed a partnership agreement with the Ace consortium to use its licence to land the cable in the Western Cape. “We are in advanced discussions with two SA companies that have valid licences, one of which will land the cable,” says Baharicom CEO Carey Phillip.

He will not say which two companies are vying to land the cable as discussions are ongoing. However, he says government owns neither of the companies. Phillip says more details should be available within the next fortnight.

ACE will follow a similar course of its direct competitor, the West African Cable System, better known as WACS, which is expected to be ready for service later this year. Both cables have design capacities of 5,1Tbit/s.

Phillip says construction of the Ace cable began in December and the project is on track to arrive at Yzerfontein, north of Cape Town, late next year. “How much of the capacity we light up when the cable goes live will depend on the demand in each country,” he says.

Alcatel-Lucent has won the construction and maintenance agreement for the cable, which will extend for 17 000km along the coast and offer terrestrial links to landlocked countries like Mali.