Tata Communications, which owns 56% of Neotel, is set to be the anchor tenant of the soon-to-be-commissioned Seacom undersea cable that will link South Africa to Asia and Europe, operating the landing of the cable in many of the strategic locations along its route. A Tata subsidiary has also won a contract for the adminstration, operations and maintenance of the cable.
The cable is set to land on the KwaZulu-Natal coast in just a few weeks time, and Neotel has already prepared the site to land it. It is also busy laying fibre, in partnership with MTN, to connect with Gauteng.
As part of its new agreement with Seacom, Tata Communications will also land the cable in Mumbai, India, and will work with a third-party to land it in Marseilles, France, as well.
Simon Cooper, vice-president of International Network Development: Global Transmission Services at Tata Communications, says the two companies will work together in a number of areas: Tata Communications is the anchor customer on the cable, which should give it a short-term pricing advantage; it will land the cable in the strategic South Africa, India and France locations, but also in some of the east African countries along its route; and its subsidiary Tata Communications Transformation Services (TCTS) will manage and operate the whole cable network.
Tata will provide fully integrated network services in South Africa, Mocambique, Tanzania and Kenya.
In terms of the network management, Cooper says Tata already has a network operating centre (NOC) in India that will be extended to the Seacom network. No new NOCs are planned for the African continent.
Over the next couple of months, he expects that Tata and Neotel will be able to start offering value-added services over the network as well.
Cooper is especially optimistic about the impact the cable will have on African communications, much of which still relies on satellite. "It will be going into South Africa, but also countries like Kenya and Tanzania," he says. "I think we will see tremendous growth."
The cable will land in South Africa within the next six to eight weeks, Cooper adds, and a ship is currently laying cable in the Red Sea to complete the link to Djibouti. "The whole thing is supposed to be finalised by June or July."
Cooper says the Neotel is ready to start supplying services as soon as connectivity is established, with the fibre connection to Gauteng largely in place.