West Africa Cable System fuels telecom competition

The landing of the West Africa Cable System (WACS) undersea cable this week is not only expected to bring much-needed capacity to the region, but more competition to the telecommunications market.

The cable, which landed Tuesday in South Africa, is an IP platform designed to allow direct routing among African countries through a single seamless network, enabling customers to reach several countries using the shortest path without Internet traffic being transferred through Europe.

Cable systems are expected to offer lower prices to telecom operators as they compete for customers. Some of the operators are also investors in the cables.

The U.N. wants at least 60 percent of the region's population to have access to affordable communication by 2015.

"Lack of bandwidth on the continent has arrested the development of Africa and has constrained Africa from achieving its full potential," said Karel Pienaar, MTN South Africa managing director.

The WACS submarine cable system is a high-capacity fiber submarine system that directly links Southern Africa and Europe, spanning the West African coast and terminating in London. It has 15 terminal stations that anchor along the west coast of Africa including Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria and Ivory Coast.