The construction of Seacom's 15 000km fibre optic undersea cable, linking southern and east Africa, Europe and south Asia, is on schedule and set to go live as planned in June 2009.
According to an update from the company, about 10 000km of cable has been manufactured to date at locations in the US and Japan.
Tyco Communications, the project contractor, is set to begin shipping terrestrial equipment this month with the cable expected to be loaded on the first ship in September 2008.
Laying of shore end cables for each landing stations will also proceed from September. This process will comprise the cable portions at shallow depths ranging from 15m to 50m where large vessels are not able to operate.
From October 2008, the first of three Reliance Class vessels will start laying the actual cable. The final splicing, which involves connecting all cable sections together, will happen in April 2009, allowing enough time for testing of the system before the commercial launch in June 2009.
The final steps of the Environmental Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) process are well advanced and all small archeological, marine and ecological studies, which required scuba diving analysis, have been completed, as well as social consultations with the affected parties.
The cable, including repeaters necessary to amplify the signal, will be stored in large tanks onboard the ships. The branching units necessary to divert the cable to the planned landing stations will be connected into the cable path on the ship just prior to deployment into the sea. The cable will then be buried under the ocean bed with the help of a plow along the best possible route demarcated through the marine survey.
The connectivity from Egypt to Marseille, France will be provided through Telecom Egypt's TE-North fibre pairs that Seacom has purchased on the system. TE-North is a new cable currently being laid across the Mediterranean Sea.
Brian Herlihy, Seacom president, says: "We are very happy with the progress made over the past five months. Our manufacturing and deployment schedule is on target and we are confident that we will meet our delivery promises in what is today an incredibly tight market underpinned by sky-rocketing demand for new cables resulting in worldwide delivery delays.
"The recently announced executive appointments combined with the project management capabilities already existent within Seacom position us as a fully-fledged telecoms player. We are able to meet the African market's urgent requirements for cheap and readily available bandwidth within less than a year."
The cable will go into service long before the 2010 FIFA World Cup kicks off in South Africa and Seacomhas already been working with key broadcasters to meet their broadband requirements. The team is also trying to expedite the construction in an attempt to assist with the broadcasting requirements of the FIFA Confederations Cup scheduled for June 2009.
The Seacom cable will be landed in South Africa by Neotel.
Seacom, which is privately funded and over three quarter African owned, will assist communication carriers in south and east Africa through the sale of wholesale international capacity to global networks via India and Europe. The undersea fibre optic cable system will provide African retail carriers with equal and open access to inexpensive bandwidth, removing the international infrastructure bottleneck and supporting east and southern African economic growth.
Seacom will be the first cable to provide broadband to countries in east Africa which, at the moment, rely entirely on expensive satellite connections.