Brics nations back R3bn Brazil-SA mega cable

Lawrence Mulaudzi

The governments of Brazil, China, Russia, India and SA have agreed to support a new, R3bn undersea cable that will connect Brazil with SA and Angola, and provide the region with onward connectivity to the US and Asia.

The South Atlantic Express (SAex) cable system, which will have an initial design capacity of 12,8Tbit/s, will connect SA and Angola to Fortaleza in Brazil, from where it will provide onward links to other countries in the Americas, including the US. SAex’s backers have signed a memorandum of understanding to connect to the 22 000km-long GlobeNet system between South America and North America.

The new cable will provide the shortest route to the US, the world’s Internet hub. This is important for reducing network latency. Until now, most SA Internet traffic has been routed via Europe, and then across the north Atlantic.

The project, which is the brainchild of black-owned and black-led eFive Telecoms, led by CEO Lawrence Mulaudzi, looks set to be funded through a combination of debt and equity by the Bank of China and SA’s Industrial Development Corp. Bank of China is said to be keen to provide at least 60% of the required funding.

Leaders of Brazil, China, Russia, India and SA — the so-called Brics countries — agreed at a summit this week to give the project their backing. The Brics nations won’t invest directly in the system’s construction. SA was recently admitted as a member of this club of powerful emerging economies.

Through Seacom — the cable system along Africa’s east coast — SAex will provide onward connectivity to India, and then to other Asian countries, including China, using various cables in South-East Asia. SAex will extend around SA’s coastline to Mtunzini on KwaZulu-Natal’s north coast.

Planning for the system, which is expected to be available for commercial use in June 2013, is at an advanced stage. eFive Telecoms has appointed UK consultancy Datawave to formulate the business case. Datawave is due to present its findings by the end of this month.

eFive is also in talks with FibreCo, a venture between Cell C, Dimension Data’s Internet Solutions and Andile Ngcaba’s Convergence Partners, for access to national fibre in SA.

FibreCo CEO Arif Hussain says the plan is to bring capacity landed by SAex to SA cities and to provide an alternative route for traffic to Seacom’s landing station at Mtunzini.

Alcatel-Lucent Shanghai Bell Co, a joint venture between the government of China and France’s Alcatel-Lucent, will build the cable. The project’s construction and maintenance agreement should be signed next month, with a marine survey to follow not long thereafter.

SAex will consist of four fibre pairs, each capable of carrying 3,2Tbit/s of data using 40Gbit/s wavelength technology. Two fibre pairs — with a combined design capacity of 6,4Tbit/s — will be extended to SA from an undersea branching unit, with another two fibre pairs likely to be extended to Angola.

Assuming that cable goes ahead in that configuration, it will be the highest-capacity cable to serve the SA market. Alternative systems under construction — the West African Cable System (Wacs) and the Africa Coast to Europe (Ace) project — have design capacities of 5,1Tbit/s each. Ace and Wacs will run along Africa’s west coast, from SA to Europe.

Mulaudzi says the project plan has been presented to both the department of communications and the department of trade & industry to ensure SAex is “aligned to the country’s national broadband strategy”.  — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral

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  • Silverfoxsa

    Well done to eFive for getting the project this far.

    Excuse my ignorance but where do eFive and Lawrence come from? There is no track record anywhere on previous work done? Are these ex government officials getting into the private space? There is no website only a domain and any searches only brings any results as far back as 2010, which to me says that this company was created specifically for this reason.

    Somebody please tell me this is not the case

  • http://www.tuism.com Tuism

    Silverfox good catch, I hope some investigative journalism will fish out the truth, but I’ve come to accept that with great power comes great corruption (first).

  • ipkwena

    In my experience companies are always created for a reason often based on opportunities identified by “opportunists”. Mining companies always find a compelling reason to mine for minerals; vehicle manufactures create cars that we simply find difficult to resists. Banks specialise in taking and keeping our monies and so the list goes on.

    Just because you are not a beneficiary (shareholder or investor in other words) does not make the existence of a company questionable. I am convinced that all of us agree that the development of a fibre cable between Africa and Brazil is a step in the right direction and will have many commercial and social benefits in years to come. I wish I had the resources to pull off such a project instead of worrying about investigative journalism.

  • Wayne

    Any extra bw is appreciated. A few things though. The length of the cable to the US via brazil can’t be that shorter than via Europe (WACS not EASSY). Also I hope that there is no government (reads tax payer) contribution to this. We don’t need it really so it would be a waste.

  • Trekelny

    As for eFive, where was Seacom before they started to build their cable? What’s really exciting about this project is the inside track on emerging-to-emerging bandwidth it will have. So the success in the end will depend on the entrpreneurial attitude of the two regions- after the Brazil World Cup and Olympics, what kind of traffic will be originating in either LA or Africa that the other regions will demand?

  • Silverspoon

    Rise Africa Rise. How sad that people like Silverfox only pull negative power? Could it be that they missed the boat and therefore trying to drain water from the ocean, of course its impossible. We need to be awake, in 1999, the questions asked about capacity requirements of Electricity in SA were asked and deemed unnecessary, came 2008, electricity was a crisis. This is a developing economy (Continentally and on our country) with a very huge space for growth, astute entrepreneurs with a commendable foresight have ceased the opportunity and are creating space for growth ease and development and therefore should be commended.

    Congrats and well done to Lawrence and his team. We will support you and look forward to the launch of the cable. It cannot be that Life revolves around Europe its time for AFRICA my motherland. As for doom-sayers like Silverfox who raise corruption, how and where is corruption on entrepreneurial initiatives where there is not even a cent of our taxes contributed to this venture. How could it be, let us be real and afford opportunity to the team that is making Africa proud.

  • http://www.metvafrica.com nyasha

    I am just like can you see the bling on this guy?? The watch and well the ipad (not really bling) but we will give it to him. eFive congrats lets see if this actually then reduces broadband pricing.

  • Maqhekeza

    Well done efive

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