SAT-3/SAFE bandwidth capacity tripled

Seacom is due to go live on Thursday, 23 July, promising to provide Africa with abundant and affordable bandwidth.  This first phase of Seacom will connect the cable system’s African cable stations directly to India and from India to Europe. 

The US$ 600 million Seacom system has a design capacity of 1.28 Tbps, but will initially only be equipped at 80 Gbps.  This is lower than the current SAT3-SAFE system’s 120 Gbps, and Telkom has indicated that it is set to upgrade the SAT3-SAFE system next month after the members of the consortium agreed to invest in additional bandwidth capacity.

According to Ajith Bridgraj, Telkom’s Senior Specialist for Media Relations, the SAT3-SAFE capacity will be upgraded from its current 120 Gbps to 340 Gbps.  The ultimate SAT-3 system capacity was projected to be 120Gb/s while SAFE’s ultimate capacity is given as 130 Gbps, but Telkom explains that technological advancements enabled the SAT3 cable to increase its design capacity far beyond the 120 Gbps that was believed possible in 2002.

“Technology evolved to the extent that 2.5Gb/s wavelengths could be replaced with 10Gb/s wavelengths. Another important difference that occurred in fibre optic submarine cables over the last 15 years was that the underwater repeaters were changed from regenerators to amplifiers. Regenerators limited the ultimate throughput in that it regenerated the signal that was send from land at each underwater repeater,” said Bridgraj.

“Submarine cables deployed since mid 90’s uses optical amplifier technology. The fact that there is no need to regenerate the signal from land, meant that whatever was transmitted from land that could fit within the amplifier frequency band will simply be amplified and transmitted onwards. Over the last number of years, suppliers have developed technology that enables them to provide higher capacity wavelengths with an ever increasingly narrower spacing between the wavelengths, thus higher capacity wavelengths and more of them within the same frequency band.”

Bridgraj said that it is this technological advancement that has enabled the SAT3 cable to increase its design capacity far beyond the 120 Gbps that was believed possible in 2002.  “Suppliers laboratories are testing 40 Gbps and even 100 Gbps wavelengths, so there are further possibilities for the future,” Bridgraj added.

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SAT-3/SAFE bandwidth capacity tripled