Kenya, Alcatel Lucent sign 82-mln-dollar undersea telecom link

12th December 2007, Comments 0 comments

Consortium to build a fibre optic cable linking East Africa to the Gulf

NAIROBI, December 12, 2007 - French-US telecom group Alcatel-Lucent signed Tuesday an 82-million-dollar deal with a Kenyan-led consortium to build a fibre optic cable linking East Africa to the Gulf.

The 4,900-kilometre (3,062-mile) cable to be set up by Alcatel-Lucent and the East Africa Marine System Ltd (TEAMS) consortium will link the Kenyan port of Mombasa with Fujairah in the Gulf of Oman, United Arab Emirates.

"With Alcatel-Lucent's cable solution, we will bring down the cost of Internet connectivity and international calls," said Bitange Ndemo, permanent secretary in Kenya's information ministry.

"As an important economic player in East Africa, such high speed communications' links will support the business community's investment in outsourcing services which are becoming increasingly popular in Kenya."

Network installation in the 60-million-euro deal is scheduled to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2009, the company said.

The Kenyan government will have a 20 percent stake, Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat will hold 15 percent, while the remaining 65 percent will be open to bids from neighbouring states. If there are no takers, it will be offered to Kenyan investors.

"This project is a new milestone in the development of the Eastern African communication infrastructures," said Jean Godeluck, president of Alcatel-Lucent's submarine network activities.

When completed the cable will serve several countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Somalia, officials said.

"Our submarine solutions offer the flexibility and reliability our customers demand to support the cost-effective delivery of innovative services," said Mohd Hassan Omran, the chairman of Etisalat.

"This contract is another significant demonstration of our strong leadership in submarine network solutions," he said.

In November, five lenders, including the World Bank and the African Development Bank pledged 70.7 million dollars for the construction of another 23-nation East Africa Submarine System (EASSy) cable that will run from South Africa to Sudan.

The remaining 164 million dollars will be contributed by 25 private telecom firms that will operate the 10,000-kilometer-long EASSy cable from South Africa to Sudan.

African countries spend about 400 million dollars a year on routing voice and data traffic through the expensive bandwidth away from and back to Africa through Europe and North America, where such services are a fraction of the cost.

Despite infrastructure improvements, notably in Africa's more developed nations, only 2.5 percent of Africans have Internet access compared to 17.8 percent in the rest of the world.

Officials say Kenya, the biggest economy in east Africa, is keen on creating communications links as soon as possible to market itself as a centre for business outsourcing, like India.

The two cables will slash costs for consumers along Africa's eastern coast, who typically pay between 200 dollars and 300 dollars a month for Internet access, according to the World Bank.

Alcatel-Lucent, formed in late 2006 in the merger of Alcatel of France and Lucent of the United States, edged Tyco Telecommunication, Fujistu, NEC and Huawei Technologies to take the contract.

Bogonko Bosire (AFP)


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