Internet speed in The Gambia and more than 20 countries in Africa and Europe is projected to increase more than 50 times, with the cost expected to reduce. And also the cost of telephone calls is also projected to significantly reduce as the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable goes live on 15th December 2012.
Gambia ACE stakeholders, who briefed journalists on the new development on Thursday at the GRTS building on MDI Road, said the ACE submarine cable will allow cheap, fast and reliable international calls, access to the internet at unprecedented and revolutionary speeds, all at a lesser cost.
This access to huge bandwidth at a cheaper rate that ACE is expected to bring to The Gambia will empower every sector of the country including, but not limited to, telecommunications, banking, education, health, and agriculture.
“The speed of internet is going to be like a superhighway. It’s going to be 100 times faster when the ACE reaches its capacity, although the initial speed is going to be 50 to 60 times faster than the current speed. It’s going to be ‘Fat fat’; as you click, it responses,” said Jay Karthik, Chief Technician of QCell, which is part of the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), a joint venture of public-private sector members established by the government for the purpose of Gambia’s participation in the ACE project.
The conference was meant to announce to Gambians the launching of ACE in The Gambia on 19 December 2012 and the benefits of the submarine cable to almost all the sectors of the economy.
The ACE submarine cable has a design capacity of 5.12 Tbps and is supported by the new 40 Gbps wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) technology.
Mr Karthik again: “If I am to translate this to the understanding of a layman, I will give this analogy: It’s like if you have one lane for a major highway with too many vehicles then obviously there will be traffic jam but if you have eight lanes at the same place then the vehicles will be running at a faster rate. With the ACE submarine cable, we are going to have a superhighway with a broadband speed.”
Hussein Diab, Information Systems director at Africell, a member of the SPV, explained that currently The Gambia is buying its bandwidth from Sonatel in Senegal, which is buying through a middleman. “So the prices of internet and calls are a little bit high but with the ACE submarine cable, The Gambia will not be going to buy from any middleman,” he said.
“We used to buy from Sonatel so by the time we sell it to the final consumers, the prices are a little bit high. But with ACE, there will not be issue of buying from a third party, so the prices will come down and the speed will faster.”
In his response to questions from journalists, Simon Peters, Chief Executive Officer of Netpage, also a member of the SPV, said the landing of the ACE submarine cable in The Gambia will be a giant leap in the country’s telecoms industry – for both voice and data.
The landing of ACE submarine cable in The Gambia will increase the country’s drive for universal access to telecommunications services at a lower cost, added Unique Solutions Chief Executive Officer Papa Njie, another SPV member.
He noted that with the ACE, a person in the village of Ndungu Kebbeh in Lower Nuimi District of North Bank will have the same access to the internet at the same speed as a person in Banjul and the child in Banjul will have the same internet speed as the child in New York.
ACE, Mr Njie noted, is expected to significantly increase The Gambia’s Gross Domestic Product, which is the total monetary value of goods and services produced in a country within a given period of time.
He said there will be a lot of jobs created and the emergence of more software developers, IT engineers, IT-related professionals, which will lead to more economic gains and development for the country.
Mr Njie thanked The Gambia government for opening its doors to the private sector to partner with them for the ACE project.
“The participation of the private sector is a testimony of the excellent relationship between the Government of The Gambia and the private sector,” he said.
Historic launching to be hosted by Gambia
Up to 500 international policymakers, regulators, operators, vendors and service providers from across the world are expected to converge in The Gambia for the historic launch of the ACE submarine cable, said Lamin Camara, deputy permanent secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure.
“After going through some rigorous selection process, The Gambia was chosen to be host of the historic launching of the ACE submarine cable,” he explained.
“The selection process was rigorous as there were a lot of other countries who also wanted to host the event. The bidding process has many criteria and among them is the availability of telecoms infrastructure, availability of transport – air transport to fly in and out the delegates who will come from other parts of the world to attend the launching, availability of accommodation to lodge the delegates, and the involvement of the government.”
Mr Camara said The Gambia met all the criteria and was subsequently chosen to host the event among a lot of other countries who vied to host the event including Senegal, Liberia, San Tome and Principe, and Ghana.
“We are proud that the launching will be done here,” Mr Camara said.
The Gambia is one of the 23 landing points for the ACE submarine cable from South Africa to France. It cost The Gambia US$25 million to participate in the ACE project 51% of which was contributed by the private sector – the SPVs, and 49% by the government.
Africell, Comium, QCell, Gamcel, Gamtel and Netpage and Unique Solutions are the members of the Special Purpose Vehicle established for the purpose of the ACE project.