The West Africa Cable System (WACS) was launched today (11 May 2012), increasing South Africa’s international bandwidth capacity by 5.12Tbps and providing the country with another submarine cable system on the West Coast of Africa.
The 17,200km WACS fibre optic submarine cable system spans the west coast of Africa, starting at Yzerfontein near Cape Town, South Africa and terminating in the United Kingdom.
WACS links 14 countries – South Africa, Namibia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Cape Verde, the Canary Islands, Portugal, and the UK.
The 4-fibre pair submarine cable system was constructed at an approximate total project cost of US$650 million.
According to Dr. Angus Hay, Co-Chair of the WACS Management Committee, “The trunk route on WACS from Cape Town to London is over 14,500km long, with the express from South Africa to Portugal being 11,500 km, one of the longest such segments in the world.
Latency tests on the WACS system carried out earlier this year from Yzerfontein in South Africa to Highbridge in the UK measured a round trip delay (RTD) of 138.5 milliseconds, the lowest achieved so far over such a transoceanic distance.
The WACS system was a supplied on a turnkey basis by Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks (ASN), making use of 10Gbps technology as well as 40Gbps optical coherent DWDM technology.
WACS is the first submarine cable system ever to make use of Generalized Multi-Protocol Label Switching (GMPLS) to provide advanced in-system restoration of wavelengths, increasing network resilience.
Many telecommunications providers in South Africa have welcomed the arrival of WACS which promises to further drive down bandwidth prices and increase connectivity service levels in the country.
MTN said that WACS will be a “much-needed boost to MTN in South Africa, where consumer appetite for data quadrupled during 2011”.
“Data consumption is up by approximately 200% year-on-year. In the same period, smartphones usage increased by 128% to 3.6 million users, while data users soared to 10.9 million,” said MTN.
“MTN is excited about the prospects brought by the launch of the cable to our markets. MTN’s ownership of WACS, together with our considerable interest in EASSy (Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System) will provide MTN with critical route diversity to Europe, from both sides of the continent,” said Kanagaratnam Lambotharan, chief technology officer at MTN South Africa.
MTN’s terrestrial segment of WACS was completed in April this year, with a total provisioned capacity of 60GB. The MTN terrestrial optical network consists of DWDM (Dense wavelength division multiplexing) and ASON (Automatic Switch Optical Network) technology at its core.
Sean Nourse, the executive for connectivity at Internet Solutions, said that WACS will further boost international broadband competition, reducing pricing, and providing the continent with the means to grow exponentially in terms of data consumption.
“To date, Africa has been a consumer of content produced by the US and Europe – often as a result of restrictive or non-existent access to broadband Internet,” said Nourse.
“With the so-called “broadband abundance” now at our disposal, and in conjunction with ICASA’s laudable ruling on the IPC cost, we can expect to see enormous social and economic changes in the country.”