Kenya Data Network (KDN) has joined Eastern Africa Submarine System (EASSy) network as an investor making it the fourth private sector investor. Other private sector investors include: MTN Uganda, Tanzanian company Soft Tech and Somalia's Dalkom.

Sameer Investments Chairman Naushad Merali and Standard Group Managing Director Tom Mshindi during Kenya Data Networks second anniversary luncheon at a Nairobi hotel last week.

KDN Managing Director Kai Wulff yesterday said his company, a data carrier, has signed a memorandum of understanding with a consortium of 17 partners in the EASSy project. Telkom Kenya is also a partner.

Other operators include national telecommunications firms from South Africa, Botswana, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Sudan, Tanzania, Zanzibar and Uganda.

Joining the national operators are private telecommunication operators, notably Somalia's Dalkom, South Africa's Sentech and mobile operator MTN Uganda Limited.

The partners will fund 50 per cent of the project costs, which will involve 13 countries in the sub-Saharan Africa.

The project will cost about Sh15.2 billion (US$ 200 million) and is expected to go live in 2007.

EASSy's completion will boost efforts designed to upgrade the region's old telecommunication infrastructure, which heavily relies on copper and satellite.

Wulff was speaking during the company's second anniversary celebrations at a Nairobi hotel.

The Standard Group Managing Director, Mr Tom Mshindi, Sameer Group Chairman Naushad Merali and Telkom Kenya MD, Sammy Kirui, were among corporate officials who attended the ceremony.

He said KDN had installed 69 exchanges in Nairobi under the initial phase of the terrestrial fibre optic programme.

By the end of the year, Wulff said, the firm would have installed 364 fibre exchange points.

"To connect all those exchanges, we have signed contracts for a national fiber backbone from Mombasa to Busia, a project that would be completed in 2006," said Wulff.