Construction has begun on the Seacom undersea cable and South Africans will be able to benefit from vastly reduced telecommunications costs as early as mid-2009.
In December 2007, the marine survey from South Africa to Kenya was successfully completed and construction of the cable started.
The survey vessel “Fugro Gauss”, which began its surveying work in June 2007 off the South African shore, mobilised in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, in January and is now continuing surveying work northwards.
While there were a number of stumbling blocks put in the way of the Seacom cable, it has moved quickly since announcing its funding partners in November. These investors include Industrial Promotion Services (26,25%), Venfin Limited (25%), Herakles Telecom (23,75%), Convergence Partners (12,5%) and Shanduka Group (12.5%). Debt funding will be provided by Nedbank Capital and Investec Bank.
The full construction was initiated on the back of the marine survey and pre-engineering work that Tyco completed in October 2007. Subsequently, Seacom and Tyco Telecommunications brought the construction contract for the full delivery of the system in force on 13 November 2007.
Brian Herlihy, Seacom president, comments: “This $10-million venture investment permitted Seacom to complete long-lead time work and initiate an 18-month construction programme to further entrench our ready for service date and ensure maximum traction in what is today, a very tight supply market.
“Seacom is excited to have kept this ‘slot’ in the manufacturing schedule as international demand for cables has sky-rocketed pushing out the delivery of new cables worldwide.”
The Seacom cable will be landed in South Africa by Neotel, which will provide the backhaul and provide access to South African users.
Seacom has also finalised agreement with Telecom Egypt (TE) to use the TE cable station in Ras Sidr, Egypt near Suez, to land the cable. From there, Seacom will own a system within the TE Transit Corridor to reach France seamlessly through the Mediterranean.
On the technical side, Tyco telecommunications and equipment vendors are in consultations to identify the Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) Network that will best support Seacom's fibre optic transmission systems whilst providing the highest levels of redundancy. A final decision is expected shortly.
“With the construction now underway, and about 16 months left to commissioning date, we are on schedule to meet the bandwidth needs of the 2010 Soccer World Cup in South Africa," says Herlihy.