Telecommunications operator signs construction agreement for new submarine cable

The Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine cable will connect the majority of West African countries to the global broadband network.

The 20 members of the ACE consortium have signed the agreement for the construction and maintenance of the Africa Coast to Europe submarine cable, which will run between France and South Africa. By signing this agreement, France Telecom-Orange has reinforced its presence in Africa and furthered its ambition to democratize Internet access in the region. The ACE cable will reduce the cost of access to international telecommunications networks, thereby removing a major barrier to the Internet's development in Africa. An official ceremony was held at the Eiffel tower recently to mark the signature of this contract. The event was chaired by Stéphane Richard, CEO of France Telecom, in the presence of the other consortium members as well as official representatives of the countries involved.

In its planned configuration, the 17,000 km-long fiber optic cable will be operational in the first half of 2012. It will connect 23 countries, either directly in the case of coastal countries or indirectly for landlocked countries.

This will be the first international submarine cable to land in Mauritania, Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sao Tome and Principe, and Equatorial Guinea. For Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon, which are already connected to the SAT3-WASC-SAFE cable (also co-owned by France Telecom-Orange), ACE will secure communications traffic while providing the additional capacity necessary for future growth.

ACE will also provide the Group's subsidiaries in eastern Africa and Réunion with an alternative for routing telecommunications traffic (voice and data) to Europe via western Africa. The northern segment of the cable will also diversify transmission arteries between France and Portugal.


A vital resource for economic and social development in Africa

To carry out this project, France Telecom-Orange set up a consortium made up of 20 members: France Telecom, Baharicom Development Company Ltd, Benin Telecoms, Côte d’Ivoire Telecom, Companhia Santomense de Telecomunicacoes, Expresso Telecom Group, Gamtel, International Mauritania Telecom, Cable Consortium of Liberia Inc., Office Congolais des Postes et Télécommunications, Orange Cameroon, Orange Guinea, Orange Mali, Orange Niger, Portugal Telecom, the Gabonese Republic, the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone Cable Ltd., Sonatel and Sotelgui.

ACE is an additional component of France Telecom-Orange’s corporate social responsibility efforts. For almost 20 years, the Group has been providing support to education, health and cultural programs through the Orange Foundation. In providing global broadband Internet access to many of West African countries, the ACE cable will facilitate the implementation and growth of Orange Foundation initiatives, in particular to educate girls in developing countries and keep them in school.

A key component of the Group's global broadband network

ACE relies on wavelength division multiplexing (WDM), currently the most advanced technology for submarine cables. With WDM, cable capacity can be increased without additional submarine work. With an overall potential capacity of 5.12 Tbps, the system is designed to migrate to the new 40 Gbps technology that will support tomorrow's ultra-broadband networks.

The project confirms France Telecom-Orange’s position as a leading player in submarine cables in this part of the world. Together with the LION cable linking Madagascar, Mauritius and Réunion - soon to be extended to Kenya with the LION2 cable - and the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), ACE strengthens the Group's overall broadband network in Africa while providing the quality of service to be expected of the Orange brand to an increasing number of customers.

The cable's construction represents an overall investment of around USD 700 million for the consortium, of which around USD 250 million will be supported by the Group and its subsidiaries. This investment reflects the Group's ambitions to make narrowband and broadband Internet access widely available in Africa, where the Group now operates in some fifteen countries; and to meet customer expectations for improved quality of service across its global network. ACE brings superior connectivity to the market, provides access to a broad range of new and innovative services, and promotes economic and social development on the African continent.

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