Nigeria’s Main One Cable System hooks to Uhurunet
Nigeria's Main One Cable System is joining the Uhurunet project that aims to link the entire African continent via undersea and terrestrial fibre optic cables, Department of Communications Director General Lyndall Shope-Mafole says. However, since the DCC does not seem to be in the business of building cables (that having been left to the Department of Trade), Uhurunet appears to be little more than a piece of political “badge engineering”.
She also says that negotiations were well advanced for the Kenyan-led Teams - The East African Marine System cable that will link that east African country to the United Arab Emirates – to join Uhurunet.
The participation of Main Street Technologies, the operating company of the Main One Cable System, is a coup for the DOC, especially after the SA government announced two months ago that the African West Coast Cable being built by state-owned enterprise Broadband Infraco was its preferred choice.
That decision, along with the rapid progress being made on the east coast by the privately funded Seacom and the DOC's divorce from the East African Submarine Cable System (Eassy), left its Nepad ICT Broadband Infrastructure Network (NBIN), now known as Uhurunet, in danger of floundering.
Shope-Mafole says some details still have to be worked out to accommodate Main Street Technologies' cable as it has different design specifications to Uhurunet. Main One Cable is designed for a capacity of 1.28Tbs (similar to Seacom), while Uhurunet wants the continent to be ringed with cables with more than 3Tbs capacity.
However, an added advantage of the Main One Cable, and possibly Teams, joining Uhurunet is that these projects are already well advanced. Main Street Technologies' system will stretch from Nigeria to Ghana and Portugal and it plans to be ready for use in May 2010. Teams is looking at a similar time frame.
Both cable systems state that their intended objectives are to bring down the African connectivity costs that are among the highest in the world.
Last month Main Street Technologies awarded the contract to construct its cable to Tyco and last year Alcatel-Lucent won the bid to construct the Teams cable.
“We are on target for Uhurunet to be operational by May 2010,” Shope-Mafole says.
She says that while neither Nigeria nor Kenya have signed the NBIN protocol, this did not exclude companies from those countries from participating in Uhurunet. Of the original 23 countries that signed the NBIN memorandum of understanding, only 12 have adopted it and three, namely South Africa, Rwanda and Zimbabwe have ratified it.
Shope-Mafole says Nigeria is “looking at the protocol.” She went on to say that the good thing about the Nigerian and Kenyan participation is that those two are among the most powerful economies in Africa.