Africa One fibre ring gets Cairo conference light up

Africa One is aggressively pushing ahead its plans for a pan-African fibre optic cable. More than 100 delegates from 40 telecommunications carriers converged in Cairo to discuss the implementation.

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By  Peter Conmy Published  August 5, 2000

Africa One is aggressively pushing ahead its plans for a pan-African fibre optic cable. More than 100 people representing 40 telecommunications carriers from 35 countries across Africa, Europe, the Middle East and North America converged in Cairo this June to discuss the implementation plans for the Africa One network.

In his welcoming address to participants, Abdel Fatah Abou Serea, Chairman of Telecom Egypt, pledged his company’s support for the Africa One project. He said, “We hope that we can offer any assistance in getting the [Africa One] project to proceed quickly and smoothly.”

At the opening session of the meeting, Africa One President Patricia Bagnell said that the time is right for a private telecommunications network in Africa, and Africa One is the right network for all of Africa.

Citing forecasts that show triple digit growth rates in telecommunications demand in Africa over the next few years, as well as changes in the African telecommunications sector that promote competition and growth, Bagnell told carriers that Africa’s economic development needs “reliable, continent-wide, state-of-the-art connections to the global information highway.”

Worldwide Solution

She noted that Africa One is the only existing or planned network that offers a continent-wide solution to Africa’s telecommunications needs and will provide Africa’s 780 million people with “the on-ramp” they need to connect to the information highway.

At the meeting, carriers and Africa One Ltd., which is a private company that will build and operate the US $1.9 billion network, reviewed the system’s architecture, individual carrier needs and how carriers will connect to the network.

Africa One is currently reviewing supply contract proposals. Construction of the cable will begin this year. Laying of the cable will begin in 2001 and the network will be ready for service in 2002.
The 32000 km undersea fibre-optic cable network will ring the African continent.

With 26 landing points in Africa, southern Europe and the Middle East, Africa One will offer all regions of Africa something they have never had before: secure, affordable fibre-optic technology that provides automatic restoration in the event of a break.

Terrestrial cables, microwave or satellite facilities will provide direct links between the coastal landing sites and other African countries. Africa One will connect to Global Crossing’s worldwide system with direct links to 250 cities across the planet.

Trade and investment in Africa requires a reliable, reasonably priced telecommunications network connecting Africans to each other and to the world. No such system exists today. Africa One Ltd. has formed two strategic relationships to ensure the success of the project. Global Crossing, a premier provider of global broadband capacity, will procure, install and maintain the network.

Revolution

The Cairo meeting follows four successful regional meetings that Africa One held earlier this year with telecommunications carriers, Internet Service Providers, and African ministers of communication. African officials in both the private and public sectors, recognising the growing need for reliable, reasonably priced telecommunications facilities, expressed support for Africa One during these earlier meetings.

Africans have been largely left behind by the telecommunications revolution sweeping the world. While one in six people in Europe and North America is logged on to the Internet, only one in 500 people in Africa has any Internet access. Outside of Nigeria and South Africa there are only 1.9 million Africans who have a regular phone service. Another million are on the waiting list.

African leaders understand the crucial role the telecommunications industry is playing in the world economy. As South Africa’s president, Thabo Mbeki told this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland,

“There is a real risk that the continent’s poverty could be compounded by lack of access to the online revolution.” United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan recently underscored the power of modern telecommunications and called on the international community to bridge the information gap and harness the great power of new technology to promote development.

“In the new millennium,” he said, “Let us make telecommunications the engine of development and integration that it can be.”

As one of the largest construction projects in the continent’s history, Africa One will provide the African nations with state-of-the-art broadband connection to the world economy for the first time.

Africa One will bring information, education and technological progress to even the poorest of African nations.

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