Africa to Get Broadband Boost With New Cable

A consortium of 20 members have joined forces to build a submarine cable that will link Cape Town in South Africa to Penmarch in France.

The 17,000 kilometer long fiber optic cable -- which has been named the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable -- will be operational in the first half of 2012 and connect 23 countries, either directly in the case of coastal countries or indirectly for inland countries, key consortium member France Télécom said on Tuesday.

The cost for building the ACE cable will be about $US 700 million, according to France Télécom.

When the cable becomes operational, it will be the first time several of these countries, including Mauritania, Gambia, Guinea, Sierra

Leone and Liberia, will get Internet access via an optical cable. Today, they have to rely on satellite access, according to a spokesman at Alcatel-Lucent, which has been awarded the task of building ACE.

The cable will be based on DWDM (Dense Wavelength-Division Multiplexing) technology, which sends multiple channels of data over one fiber using different different wavelengths of light. ACE will be able to carry up to 5.12T bps (bits per second) over two fiber pairs using current technology, according to Alcatel-Lucent.

Since plans to build the cable was first announced in December 2008, the ACE project has grown and as a consequence been delayed. The original length was 12,000 kilometers and the cable was supposed to be done by 2011.

In July, a study of of the sea floor will commence and the manufacturing of the cable will also start, according to a spokesman at France Télécom.

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