Technology

The 6th: Cable promises Kenya faster internet, more business

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ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru (left) leads other senior government officials and corporate executives during the launch of the sixth submarine internet cable at Nyali Mombasa on Tuesday. PHOTO | FAUSTINE NGILA | NMG

Thirteen years after Kenya welcomed its first-ever fibre optic cable, the country has now unveiled a sixth submarine internet cable that promises to offer higher speeds, lower latency and broader bandwidth.

The launch of the Pakistan and East Africa Connecting Europe (Peace) cable on Tuesday comes at a time when the country’s internet economy is rapidly growing thanks to digital transformation.

As demand rises for cloud storage, heavy content streaming, e-commerce platforms, e-learning apps, telehealth systems, fintech innovation and online businesses, the new cable is expected to offer additional broadband to the national fibre backbone network.

The Sh46 billion cable connects Africa to France and Pakistan through the Europe-Asia route, providing a direct connectivity to Asia, which is expected to reduce communication delays between Africa and Asia.

The launch is a partnership between Peace and Telkom Kenya.

Kenya has the most expensive mobile data in East Africa according to the global Mobile Data Index.

But the 15,000-kilometre cable is expected to create more flexible digital connection options, including high speeds of 200 Gbps per single wavelength with a total capacity of 192 Terabits per second, as well as stable and secure data access possibilities.

Speaking during the launch at Nyali, Mombasa, ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru said Kenya was right inside the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) where demand for fast internet is at an all-time high.

“Right now, you can enjoy 5G data speeds at Uhuru Gardens. 5G smartphone penetration in Kenya is growing. More online business opportunities will be unlocked by this cable,” he said.

Further, the continued growth in consumer demand for connectivity and data could unlock new markets for co-location data centres, content development networks and Over-the-Top service providers in the country, Peace Cable’s chief operating officer, Sun Xiaohua said.

“Peace will bring more diversified digital connection options and provide high-speed, large-capacity and stable data access opportunities to Kenya,” he said.

Fibre optics are long, thin strands of carefully drawn glass arranged in bundles called optical cables.

Peace and Telkom are relying on them to transmit light signals over long distances. But at the transmitting source, the light signals are encoded with data.

Telkom CEO Mugo Kibati said contributing to Kenya's strategic evolution to become a digital economy is critical, especially through the internet.

“This ultra-high capacity cable will assist Kenya and the region in meeting its current and future broadband capacity requirements as well as assist carriers in providing affordable services to Kenyans,” he said.

Telkom currently operates and maintains five of the six submarine cables that have landed in Kenya.

Former ICT Principal Secretary and chair of the Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence Taskforce Bitange Ndemo said Kenya is now ready to take on global tech heavyweights in the digital economy. “Broadband access is a human right. With these steps, we will even witness the launch of a seventh and eighth internet cable,” he said.

Peace, a Hong Kong-based cable network founded in 2018, said its second phase will see the cable extend to Singapore and Southern Africa, consequently opening new markets in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

The East African Marine System (Teams) internet cable launched in June 2009 was the first. The other internet cables that landed in Mombasa are the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), the Lower Indian Ocean Network (LION), Seacom and the Djibouti Africa Regional Express 1 (DARE1).

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