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Reliance to build submarine cable to rival EASSy PDF Print E-mail

Reliance Corporation, one of India’s largest information technology firms, says that it will construct a submarine cable along the eastern Africa seaboard by 2009.

The fibre optic cable, the company said recently, will link South Africa and Kenya, and also serve Tanzania, Mauritius, Mozambique and Madagascar as well as some land-locked countries. The cable link will be laid down by Reliance subsidiary, Flag Telecom

Last December, Reliance announced that it would invest $1.5 billion to put up the world s most extensive Internet access network through submarine cables covering more than 60 countries.

News of the latest plans to lay a cable along the eastern seaboard are likely to cause a certain level of alarm among the partner states involved with the controversy-prone East African Submarine Cable System (EASSy) cable. By last December, only 12 countries out of the targeted 23 stretching from South Africa to the Sudan had pledged support to the project.

Proponents of an eastern seaboard fibre optic cable say that it would lower Internet slashing bandwidth costs by as much as a third, and spur the development of outsourcing centres along the eastern coast to compete with similar centres in Asia.

Valued at $300 million, EASSy itself is planned to run from Mtunzini in South Africa to Port Sudan in Sudan, with landing points in six countries, and connected to at least five landlocked countries. The thinking is that these countries will subsequently no longer have to rely on expensive satellite systems to carry voice and data services. The project, to be funded largely by the World Bank and the Development Bank of Southern Africa, was initiated on January 2003. 

Since inception, however, the EASSy project which is now expected to be completed by the end of 2008 has been dogged by disagreements over financing and access among partner states, with Kenya opting to sit the project out. Kenyan officials were reportedly particularly peeved by South African efforts to control the project, reports indicated.

Last September, Kenya announced that it would seek funding to finance its own undersea cable running from Mombasa to Fujairah in the Gulf of Oman in a bid to accelerate the emergence of the country a business outsourcing centre. The cable, Nairobi said, would be made available to any interested party along the way.

Analysts say that the announcement by Reliance, by introducing a third player, could change the dynamics somewhat, raising the possibility that the Kenyan government may seek a partnership with the Indian multinational to counter-balance the South African-led EASSy.


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