AT&T, Tata Take Aim at Africa

April 16th, 2009 by · 1 Comment

These days, so many telecom eyes seem to be trained on Africa.  AT&T (NYSE:T, news, filings) announced today that they have signed an agreement with South African based Telekom, in which the two networks will basically just interconnect and promise to talk about more stuff later.  What stuff? Just about everything from wholesale voice to telepresence seems to be on the agenda, at least someday.   It's hard to envision a big market for telepresence in Africa when we have little more than dreams of one in the US and Europe.   But if they mean it, real value could come out of the relationship one day.  Telekom has dreams of becoming a truly pan-African network someday.

Separately, Tata Communications (news, filings) announced that they will join the West African Cable System (WACS).   This new system will do what SEACOM is doing on the other side of the continent, i.e. bring modern bandwidth to regions that currently depend mostly on satellite links and duct tape.  A few days ago, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE:ALU, news, filings) was selected to deploy the cable, which will have a minimum design capacity of 3.84Tbps and will run from the UK to South Africa stopping along the way in Namibia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, Cape Verde, the Canary Islands, and Portugal.  Quite a list!

Add these to SEACOM and various other M&A news lately, and you have the makings of an African fiber rush.   But I wonder what's really driving it. Bandwidth in the region doesn't seem poised to explode in the way Asia's has been, the infrastructure just isn't there yet.   Is it just a case of overcrowding in the rest of the world? Too many telecoms in too little space with tight credit markets restricting consolidation?  It's not that I'm against it, the more fiber the better.  I just thought we were beyond the 'build it and they will come' business plan.

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Categories: Undersea cables

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  • I am of the view that the lack of low cost international connectivity via undersea cable in East Africa has stiffled any investment incentives for Broadband infrastructure in East Africa countries given that most broadband connectivity is driven by Internet Access. The coming of the undersea cables will stimulate growth in broadband development in these countries and improve ICT penetration as a whole.

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