Optic Cable Firm Seacom Eyes Three More African Countries

Cable optic firm Seacom says it will extend services to three more African countries – Somalia, Southern Sudan and Burundi – as the demand for high speed Internet increases.

The firm’s regional head, Mr Julius Opio, said they will first link Burundi by next year. The country plans to instal 1,300 kilometres of fibre network with the help of a Sh840-million ($10.5 million) grant from the World Bank.

He said the firm will then launch operations in Southern Sudan and later Somalia within the next two-to-three years.

“The main obstacle has been insecurity in Somalia but we have plans to enter the market; Burundi and Southern Sudan will come first,” said Mr Opio at media workshop Monday.

Building infrastructure

Seacom currently provides cable links in Kenya, which is the headquarters of the East and North African region, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Uganda.

In the region, individual countries are aggressively building their Internet infrastructure.

Rwanda has just finished laying of a 2,300km cable costing more than Sh4.8 billion ($60 million), while Tanzania continues to lay its Sh13.6 billion ($170 million), 10,000 kilometre-plus cable from a Chinese loan of about Sh8.2 billion ($102 million).

Kenya is also investing Sh4.8 billion ($60 million) in the National Optic Fibre Backbone Infrastructure (Nofri).

Some 5,000km of the cable had been laid by June 2010.

The East Africa Community plans to link its cables in one network, hence cut the cost of communication by increasing the speed of Internet and capacity.

“This is now possible with the landing of the Seacom cables in Kenya and Tanzania, which is linked to the terrestrial backbone cables for high-speed and low-cost international bandwidth,” Mr Opio said.

Debate continues to rage over high Internet retail prices even as the Mauritius-based firm plans to widen its reach.

Two years after the undersea fibre optic cables that promised ease access and provide fast Internet went live, consumers in the low end of the market still have nothing to celebrate about.

Even though, wholesale prices have gone down from about Sh240,000 ($3,000) for a megabyte (MB) per month in early 2009 to between Sh16,000 ($200) and Sh40,000 ($500), retail consumers are yet to feel the drastic fall.

Internet Service Providers, who buy bandwidth in bulk from broadband – high speed Internet sellers – and repackage it to sell to consumers, still charge highly.