EASSy now prepares for rollout

WIOCC chief commercial officer James Wekesa (left) and the firm’s CEO Chris Wood read the EASSy routes. The cable will be handed over on July 21, 2010. Photo/FREDRICK ONYANGO

The East African Submarine System (EASSy), the country’s third international fibre optic cable, will be officially handed over to its owners on Wednesday — signalling that the cable is set to go live in the coming weeks.

The cable, which landed in Mombasa in April, and has so far been in the custody of its manufacturers— Alcatel-Lucent—will be presented to the West Indian Ocean Cable Company (WIOCC) who will run it on behalf of its shareholders.

Change dynamics

“The hand-over signifies the start of business for us. We anticipate our entry to change the dynamics in the market and eventually lower the price of connectivity significantly,” said James Wekesa of WIOCC.

In Kenya, the sole shareholder in the project is Telkom Kenya, which is represented on WIOCC’s board by its CEO, Mickael Ghossein.

Other major African telecoms operators as well as a handful of international companies such as British Telecom, Bharti Airtel and Telkom South Africa are also shareholders in the project.

EASSy’s entry has elicited mixed feelings from players in the internet sector, who say that the cable could have little effect on pricing , which has remained a contentious issue in the last year.

The arrival of two earlier international fibre links — the government-led TEAMS and privately-owned Seacom — was anticipated to decrease prices from $6,000 per megabit to $200 per megabit, but the arrival of two other cables has seen operators keep prices at $500.

But the World Bank says the entry of a third cable is the catalyst the industry needs to lower prices.

Meanwhile, fibre system operator Seacom said it expected faults on its undersea cable to be repaired by the end of this week.

“Seacom has in the last week continued to work closely with its partners in the repair process and maintained adequate connectivity during the exercise,” the company said in part in a statement on its website.

Seacom said a designated ship had been deployed to the site of the fault where it will proceed to locate the cable on the seabed.

Once located with the help of cable station staff and specialised equipment, the cable will be brought on board the ship to undergo repair.

This will include cutting the cable to remove the affected portion, reviewing the physical integrity of the cable before proceeding with the initial splicing of the spare cable segment which has been tested and prepared while in transit on board the ship.

“When the final splicing is completed, the entire system will be thoroughly tested before the cable is lowered back iton the water,” Seacom said.

On July 5, Seacom reported that its service was down because a submarine repeater failure was experienced, resulting in service downtime between Mumbai in India and Mombasa in Kenya.

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