Technical upgrades can boost cable capacity in South Africa, says WIOCC vice-president

cable capacity South AfricaMike Last, marketing and international business development vice-president at Africa’s carriers’ carrier WIOCC, writes about how upgrades in technology can help to boost existing cable capacity in South Africa

There has recently been speculation regarding the possibility of new submarine cables landing in South Africa while the country is already served by multiple high-capacity submarine cables– including WACS on the West coast, and EASSy and Seacom on the East.

Chris Wood, WIOCC CEO, firmly believes the existing cable systems serving South Africa are able to offer sufficient broadband capacity and, very importantly, diversity, to not only meet existing and projected future demand, but also to provide a suitable level of protection against cable cuts.

The big issue currently is that some broadband capacity suppliers have not built sufficient levels of diversity into their networks, by not utilising each of the five main cables serving South Africa, and so are leaving their customers vulnerable to unnecessary service interruptions due to individual and multiple cable cuts. If telcos and ISPS split their traffic across the five cables and, for example, two cables suffered cuts, then the nominal 40 per cent of traffic affected could be absorbed across the other three cables without adding a huge level of additional bandwidth and without service interruption to end-users.

WIOCC CEO Chris Wood explains, “The EASSy cable has a design capacity of 10Tbps, of which only just over half a Tbps has been lit; with only 50 per cent of that currently in use. A further capacity upgrade of EASSy in 2017 will add another 2Tbps, and that is expected to take at least another two to three years to be soaked up by the market.”

Developments in optical technologies could further increase design capacity in the coming years. WACS and Seacom also currently have spare capacity, and the technology on these cable systems also allows for significant capacity upgrades.

Chris Wood continues, “I think when it gets to the business-case stage, people will look at these proposed new cables and ask, ‘What are the alternatives? Do we really need another system, or can we actually use the existing systems to meet the expected future demand?’”

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