Four telecommunication firms have signed an agreement to construct a fibre optic cable linking the eastern Africa seaboard. Telkom Kenya, Botswana Telecom, Rwanda Telecom and Zanzibar Telecom signed the memorandum of understanding during the third steering committee meeting on the submarine cable system held in Nairobi. Twelve firms in the region are involved in the project and the rest are expected to sign by December 31, 2003.

Preliminary feasibility studies show the cost of the undersea cable from South Africa past Zanzibar to Djibouti to cost between Sh15.4 billion to Sh18.5 billion and will be ready for commercial service by December 2006.

The planned cable will link the region to other international cables in South East Asia, Middle East and Western European Cable and Fibre Optic Link around the Globe (FLAG).

The Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System will have landing points in Djibouti, Mogadishu, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam, Maputo, Mahajanga, Mtunzini and Zanzibar. Telkom Kenya has been given the responsibility of coordinating the implementation of the project.

A detailed feasibility study, including site surveys, will be carried out in the first quarter of 2004. The study will be carried out by a consultant who will also assist in the preparation of tender documents.

When the cable is ready for commercial service the cost of international telecommunications operations between eastern Africa and the rest of the world is expected to reduce by an estimated 50 to 70 percent. Telcom firms from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Djibouti, South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Rwanda, Madagascar and Malawi are involved in the project.

The Nation