Terrestrial broadband study begins in Africa


The e-Africa Commission has initiated a study on the feasibility of its Umoja terrestrial network – marking key strides in the development of a broadband infrastructure network for Africa.

“The study will determine what the cost of the Umoja network in the various regions will be. This input will then determine what the SPV (special purpose vehicle) will need to make the network a reality,” said Dr Edmund Katiti, policy and regulatory advisor for the e-Africa Commission.

The commission, which is a part of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), says the six-month study would focus on the fibre-optic couplings that Umojanet, its terrestrial network, would need to link to the 40,000km Uhurunet submarine cable. The first feasibility study would cover 23 countries in the Eastern and Southern Africa regions.

“The purpose of the study is to determine which fibre-optic links are in existence between cities, the capacity of the lines, their useability, who owns the infrastructure and the value of the infrastructure,” explains Katiti.

The e-Africa Commission was awarded $410,000 of funding by the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) in September 2007. A contract for the study was supposed to be awarded at the end of 2007 and the study should have been carried out in the first half of 2008.

Katiti attributes the year-long delay to the lengthy process which accompanied the commissioning procedure. “The funding was approved by the DBSA, but we still had to go through a tender process and consult with the companies. We also had to ensure the work that they would be doing would be within our budget.”

The study will be presented to prospective investors in the Nepad Terrestrial SPV that will develop, own and operate the terrestrial broadband network. The SPV would lease or sell Umojanet services to licensed telecom operators in various countries.

The e-Africa Commission is also seeking a range of investors for its Umojanet and Uhurunet projects, ranging from telecoms companies to financial investors who are willing to invest over 15 to 20 years.