SAEx cable system advancing despite funding problems


Plans for the South Atlantic Express (SAEx) undersea cable system are advancing despite funding difficulties, as eFive Telecoms announces the grant of a supply contract to TE SubCom.

The cable system – which was first proposed by eFive in early 2011 - will link South Africa to Brazil, with the possibility of further extension to the United States, and will comprise two-fibre pairs amounting to a 16 Tb per second capacity.

The 9,990 kilometres of cable will stretch as far as Mtunzini, and will link East London, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town on its route to Fortaleza in Brazil. The system will also feature a spur to St Helena Island, and is likely to provide a link to Angola as well.

Last week’s announcement that a supply contract has been awarded is the first sign of life from the project since funding issues were disclosed in January. The company added today that while funders could not yet be revealed, it expects the “financial close” to be announced in the first half of 2013.

Following the announcement of the project in 2011, things went quiet for the SAEx project, and in January of this year eFive’s new Chief Executive Officer Rosalind Thomas revealed that no financial backing had yet been secured for the project - estimated at a cost of R3 billion (US$346 million) to complete. Thomas disclosed that the company hoped “soon to make progress on that front”, adding that “finance discussions are well advanced”.

The company initially promised that the cable would be commissioned in early to mid-2013, however, with revelations as to delays in financing, it became clear that this original date was wildly optimistic. Thomas revealed: “The project is not going to be ready in 2013 due to delays experienced last year. Our target date is Q4 2014.”