The Gambia, a small state on the western tip of Africa, will host the launch of one of the most ambitious telecommunications projects in Africa, the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable on 19th December 2012.
Up to 500 international policy-makers, regulators, operators, vendors and service providers from across the world are expected to converge in The Gambia for the historic launch of the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable.
The ACE consortium, which is led by France Telecom-Orange, is made up of 16 members from Africa and Europe. The US$700 million cable will ultimately extend over 17,000 km from Brittany in France to Cape Town in South Africa, at depths close to 6,000 metres below sea level, linking Europe to Africa with high-
capacity broadband connectivity.
In a statement from The Gambia Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure, Yves Ruggeri, the Chairman of ACE said: “This (ACE) is a milestone in the transformation and advancement of telecommunication in Africa. The system will use the most advanced high-speed broadband fibre optic technology.”
The ACE submarine cable will connect more than 20 countries directly for coastal countries and indirectly through terrestrial links for landlocked countries like Mali and Niger. ACE connectivity will become a key driver of Africa’s social development and economic growth. ”
Mr Ruggeri, who is also the Director of Networks Strategy and Submarine Systems at France Telecom-Orange, explained that the system has a design capacity of 5.12 Tbps and is supported by the new 40 Gbps wavelength division multiplexing (WDM) technology. This makes it possible to increase capacity as required and to adapt to the latest technological improvements by upgrading station equipment without any submarine cable modifications. The ACE system will also facilitate connectivity with terrestrial fibre optic cables.
He said ACE deployed the latest fibre optic technology developed by Alcatel-Lucent. This offers better high-speed broadband Internet quality than satellite and at a lower cost.
Mr Lamin Camara, Deputy Permanent Secretary at The Gambia’s Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure who represents the country in the ACE consortium noted that the system will allow more than 20 countries in Europe and Africa, including two landlocked countries, to own capacity.
“This will give all countries in Africa the opportunity to access the international broadband network at a lower cost. This will increase high-speed Internet in Africa, thus reducing the digital divide and triggering social and economic development. For countries such as The Gambia, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Sao Tome & Principe and Sierra Leone, which will have access to a submarine cable for the first time, ACE will broaden their opportunities in terms of connectivity, data-sharing and information sharing with the rest of the world,” he explained.
Increasing network capacity will allow the reduction of the final subscription cost and will address the strong demand in these countries regarding the Internet and mobile networks. ACE will also promote better network reliability as well as greater flexibility. Landlocked countries such as Mali and Niger will also have access to the ACE cable system and will therefore benefit from the same increase in connectivity as the countries with a coastal access.
The 16 members of the ACE Consortium include Cable Consortium of Liberia Ltd, Côte d’Ivoire Telecom, Expresso Telecom Group Ltd, France Telecom, Gambia Submarine Cable C° Ltd, Guineenne de la Large Bande SA, International Mauritania Telecom, Orange Cameroun, Orange Mali, Orange Niger, PT Comunicações SA, Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Gabon, Sierra Leone Cable Ltd, Sonatel, STP Cabo.
Telecommunication experts say ACE will add to the portfolio of submarine cables in Africa and the world as a whole thereby complementing existing submarine cables (SAT-3/WASC/SAFE, SEA-ME-WE.3, ATLANTIS 2, etc) and will offer the West African coastal region excellent connectivity to telecommunications networks in Europe, America and Asia.