SAEx promises lowest latency from SA to USA

Update on the roll-out of a submarine cable between South Africa and Brazil

November 22, 2012
SAEx small

eFive is promising the lowest latency route between South Africa and New York on its South Atlantic Express (SAEx) cable system, for which building is set to start in 2014.

Rosalind Thomas, chief executive officer of eFive, said that the company will be able to offer around 144ms latency to New York.

Time-frames and financing of SAex

Construction of the cable will begin 14 months after “contract in force”, Thomas said. She explained that they will begin work immediately after contract in force, but that the  due to the time it takes to get the necessary permits in South Africa the actual laying of the cable may only happen some months after the project commences.

The contract will come in force when the project achieves financial closure, which Thomas suggests will be in March 2013, in the company’s most aggressive estimates. More conservatively, it expects financial closure during June 2013.

Rosalind Thomas

Rosalind Thomas

An important part of achieving financial close, Thomas added, is that the company has to “get [its] sales down”, referring to pre-sales of capacity on the cable before the build.

Thomas said that eFive is still in discussions on financing, and that the money for the cable will be a combination of debt and equity.

“I can’t reveal the names of institutions because they’ve asked us not to,” Thomas said. “It’s at a very sensitive stage.”

The cost of the system build, which is referred to as the “SAEx network”, is $280-million (US) or R2.5-billion at the current exchange rate, Thomas said.

Landing points and capacity of SAex

SAEx

SAEx

Thomas went on to explain that eFive is building an East-West cable – from Asia going to the Americas – because that’s where the company sees the demand.

The market isn’t as big as from Asia going West, Thomas said, but added that she believes eFive has a good business case because it is the first one to “close the loop”.

Although eFive is interested in traffic destined for, or originating from, South Africa, Thomas said that the business case is transit traffic, not traffic that needs to terminate in SA.

As far as traffic from South Africa is concerned, Thomas said that SANReN has already indicated interest in bandwidth on the SAex cable.

The SAEx cable is set to land at various points in South Africa: Mtunzini, East London, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town; thereafter going on to St Helena, and Fortaleza in Brazil.

Thomas said that eFive’s current design includes 3 fibre pairs for domestic traffic in SA and 2 for international traffic, with the possibility of going to 3 or even 4 fibre pairs.

One of the domestic fibre pairs will be a kind of “local loop”, linking up all the landing points in South Africa, Thomas said; while one of the international fibre pairs the company envisions for use in upgrades.

SAEx will use 100G technology, which means it offers 100 Gigabits per second, per wavelength on each fibre pair, with every pair offering 80 wavelengths for the moment.

This makes the theoretical design capacity 8 Terabits per second (Tbps) internationally, when using a single fibre pair, or 16Tbps when using both pairs currently on the cards.

*UPDATE: A previous version of this article said the latency would be below 120ms. eFive said that this is incorrect as they will offer latencies of about 110ms to Brazil and 144ms to New York.

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Tags: eFive, Headline, SAex

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