Nigerian SNO Globacom last week signed a contract with Alcatel to deploy deploy a 8,600km submarine cable for Globacom, connecting Nigeria to England. This cable will significantly expand Nigeria's international connectivity since it allows Globacom to connect with the U.S. via the UK. It will also provide much needed competition to the SAT3 cable, the club consortium cable run and owned largely by African incumbent telcos.

Globacom made a formal attempt to buy a shareholding in SAT3 but was turned down by the consortium managed by Telkom South Africa. Although the consortium's shareholder agreement is a confidential document, it is understood that all consortium members have to agree before a new shareholder is admitted. Clearly Nigerian incumbent Nitel would have a strong interest in not admitting a competitor to the consortium.

Under the terms of the agreement, Alcatel will also expand Globacom national mobile network capacity from its current 2,5 million subscribers to 10 millions by the end of 2005. This covers the Alcatel multi-standard Evolium™ radio access and core network solutions as well as transmission solutions. Alcatel's Intelligent Network (IN) solution and Messaging Suite have already enabled Globacom customer's access to enhanced mobile voice and data services, making Globacom the first Nigerian operator to offer 2.5G high-speed data rates and Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS).

The contract also includes the deployment of a new multi-service IP (MSIP) network using data-aware optical technology, which will enable Globacom to pioneer Triple Play (voice video, data) services in Africa. Based on the scalability and reliability of the MSIP network, Globacom will offer voice and symmetric DSL services to a wider number of business and residential clients, as well as deliver new high-speed Internet access and broadband multimedia services such as Video -on Demand, videoconferencing and broadcast TV. These services will be offered initially in 10 major cities. Alcatel's solution will allow Globacom to meet the growing subscriber demand for fixed telecommunications services and facilitate the migration towards a Next Generation Network.