Africa is set to receive a significant broadband boost with the news that France Telecom (FT) has signed the construction agreement with Alcatel-Lucent for the new Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable. In a press release, the vendor said its share of the 17,000km fibre-optic link is worth USD500 million and will connect the majority of West African countries to the global broadband network. For its part, FT said the group and its subsidiaries will invest around USD250 million in the cable’s construction, bringing the consortium’s total investment to more than USD700 million. The ACE consortium is a newly formed group of 20 telecom operators, headed by the French behemoth. The new link is expected to be operational in the first half of 2012 and will connect 23 countries, either directly or indirectly (i.e. for landlocked countries), spanning from South Africa to France.
The ACE cable relies on wavelength division multiplexing (WDM), currently the most advanced technology for submarine cables. With WDM, cable capacity can be increased without additional submarine work. With an overall potential capacity of 5.12Tbps, the system is designed to migrate to the new 40Gbps technology that will support future migration to ultra-high speed broadband networks.
Alongside FT the other consortium members are: Baharicom Development Company, Benin Telecoms, Cote d’Ivoire Telecom, Companhia Santomense de Telecomunicacoes, Expresso Telecom Group, Gamtel, International Mauritania Telecom, Cable Consortium of Liberia, Office Congolais des Postes et Telecommunications, Orange Cameroon, Orange Guinea, Orange Mali, Orange Niger, Portugal Telecom, the Gabonese Republic, the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone Cable, Sonatel and Sotelgui.