State-run incumbent Gambia Telecommunications Company (Gamtel) has signed a USD33.2 million contract with Chinese network equipment provider Huawei Technologies for the implementation of Gambia’s component of the ECOWAS Wide Area Network (ECOWAN) project. As reported by the Gambian Observer newspaper, project coordinator Pa Modou Gassama explained that the ECOWAS Regional Infrastructure and E-governance Platform Programme was adopted in July 2010, while in June 2011 the Gambian government signed a Financing Agreement from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to implement the domestic portion of the project, with the funds made available in February 2012, comprising a loan of USD3.63 million and Istisna’a loan of USD23.69 million, whilst the Gambian government/Gamtel is providing financing of USD5.91 million. Detailing the scope of the project at the national level, Gassama disclosed that a new 48-pair fibre network is to be laid on the North Bank and also to replace the existing three-pair fibre cable on the South Bank. The 947km backbone fibre-optic network is to be implemented in multiple rings – Greater Banjul Area, West Brikama, ‘East Ring A’ and ‘East Ring B’ – for added security, while all of Gamtel’s existing TDM switching and transmission network is to be replaced with an all IP-based Next Generation Network (NGN), he added. The project specification also includes the provision of last mile wireless access through the deployment of a standalone 4G LTE network to 300 government and ECOWAS offices within the Greater Banjul Area (GBA) as well as nomadic access to up to 2,500 senior government officials within the GBA, it was announced. Finally, the upgraded domestic backbone network will connect to Gambia’s new link to the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable system, enabling the provision of high speed broadband services throughout the country.
The multinational ECOWAN project has objectives including the development of an 8,000km terrestrial fibre network (Regional Backbone Infrastructure) and wireless broadband (e.g. WiMAX/LTE) last mile solutions to connect government nodes in all 15 ECOWAS member states. After two years of the Gambian project’s implementation the country is expected to be interconnected with all 15 ECOWAS member states, with the aim of ‘harmonising governance and financial policies,’ according to the project presentation.
Acting managing director of Gamtel, Sulayman Susso, claimed that Gambia was in the forefront in terms of progress on the ECOWAN project. He added that the implementation of the project will enable the transformation of the national telecoms infrastructure, for ‘every citizen’ to benefit from ICT initiatives that the Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure is promoting. ‘I believe that we are on the right track … for the country to benefit fully from the project in line with the advent of [the] ACE landing station,’ he stated.