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Affordable and broadband Internet soon a reality in Africa

December 3rd, 2010 in Sciences

Various large-scale projects will provide Africa with a broadband coverage of the Internet throughout its territory. Among the most ambitious projects that will emerge, the Internet search engine Google, the first European bank HSBC and cable operator Liberty Global have partnered to provide high speed internet access at low cost to three billion people living in Africa and other emerging countries through a network of satellites.

Competing projects include increasing network throughput between Europe and Africa. The giant Alcatel-Lucent, in collaboration with a consortium led by France Telecom, will set up a 17,000 km-long fiber optic cable. This cable called ACE (Africa Coast to Europe) should accelerate the throughputs in the countries on west coast of Africa. The works have begun in May 2010.

Broadband via satellite

The consortium formed by Google, HSBC and Liberty Global has placed orders for 16 telecommunication satellites in low orbit with Thales (HO) Alenia Space, Europe’s number one in that industry.

The project called O3b Networks, aims to provide the internet connection to the “other three billion people” (other 3B), hence its name. It represents an investment of 750 million dollars.

The contract also includes an option on several additional satellites, with procurement and commissioning of satellites scheduled for late 2010. O3b has intention to cover Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, providing a connection with the speed of fiber optics.

The cable linking Europe with Africa is under Construction

The competing project consists of members of the ACE consortium (Alcatel-Lucent and France Telecom), which aims to meet the needs for broadband and develop connectivity in Africa. The ACE will be operational from the first half of 2012, at a cost estimated at $ 500 million.

This new system of submarine network with a capacity of integrated 40 Gbit / s will allow a high-speed communications to and from Africa and Europe. The ACE will connect 23 countries, from Cape Town in South Africa to France.

This will affect the countries in Southern Europe (France, Spain and Portugal) but also and especially African countries including: Namibia, Angola, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, Mali, Benin, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Gambia, Senegal and Mauritania.

Alcatel-Lucent is planning to set up a sales service for the first half of 2012. Eventually, a dozen of these cables should connect Africa to Europe. The Middle East and Asia have been announced too.

Benefits of Broadband

This new offer will facilitate access to Internet infrastructure, which is still limited in emerging markets. Only when emerging markets obtain an affordable, widespread access to the rest of the world, will locally created content, education through the Internet, telemedicine and other projects that bring economic growth and social development significantly appear.

These projects should reduce the cost of bandwidth for telecom operators and ISPs, and therefore provide cheaper calls and broadband services.

The concerned regions will benefit from communications and better Internet services, which are vital to their socio-economic development, particularly when it comes to the completion of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

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