Chad in search of partners to develop fiber optic network
For a number of years, the Chadian government has been carrying out a vast program to develop the African country's fiber optic network and reduce the big technological gap with other countries on the continent.
But the project seems to have stalled and the government is today seeking for investors to guarantee its progress.
Speaking recently, the secretary general in the Ministry for Posts and Information & Communication Technologies (PNTIC), Noel Yamta, said the government's objective is to develop a national fiber optic network linked to sub-marine cables (at least one from the east through Sudan and another from the west through Nigeria).
Last week, the Chadian government held talks with the public and private operators in the telecommunication sector and financial donors on partnership to develop the fiber optic network.
In Chad, access to the Internet is controlled by two foreign mobile companies that have almost had a monopoly on the sector since 2000. According to Yamta, this has made access to Internet very expensive and the service has also been poor.
Yamta said the government would like to develop the fiber optic network not only to give Chadians cheaper Internet, but to increase the capacity of the mobile phone service providers operating on its national territory.
"Through this project that will be implemented in various phases, Chad intends to compensate for the delay that it has experienced vis-a-vis its peers in the development of telecommunication infrastructures and become a hub in the sector," the secretary general in the PNTIC Ministry said.
The first phase of this ambitious project will be the construction of linkages to the neighboring countries of Sudan, Nigeria, Niger and Central African Republic.
The construction of the linkages should be completed before N'Djamena hosts the African Union summit in mid-2015.
The project will also see the laying down of fiber optic cables to major towns and less populated regions to reduce the technological gap that separates Chad from other African countries.
"With a 1.9 percent Internet penetration rate in 2012, Chad remains significantly below the African average of 15.6 percent," Yamta said, noting that the fiber optic cable will quadruple the penetration rate in the next five years to reach 8 percent -- like the current rate in Gabon.
Initially, the management of Chad's 830-km fiber optic cable was done by SITCOM, a local private entity.
In 2012, the management of the fiber optic cable was handed to SOTEL, a state-run telecommunications company, after the former firm was bought by foreign investors.
But 16 months since SOTEL was given the management role, the fiber optic cable is still no longer accessible, and the hope that many people had placed in it has dissipated.
Given the scale of the project, the government has proposed an innovative and inclusive funding mechanism, which needs a firm catering for not only national security, but the interests of consumers, the inspector general in the PNTIC Ministry, Mahamat Saleh Ibrahim, said.