East African Backhaul System (EABS) cable that runs from Mombasa to Dar es Salaam, allowing connectivity to the region’s landlocked countries is set to be ready for service by the end of July, 2010.
The infrastructure (EABS) link runs across Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania, feeding from cable systems that landed at both Mombasa and Dar es Salaam.
During a recent meeting of the EABS Project Management Team (PMT) in Kigali, the team revealed that the fibre backbone infrastructure is now fully in place in four of the five EAC countries.
The meeting was organised by MTN Rwanda and attracted different regional operators including Onatel, U-Com, Burundi’s Sitec, TTCL, Zantel, MTN Uganda, Uganda Telecom, Telcom Kenya as well as Uganda’s Warid Telecom.
“Currently, the Burundi segment of EABS is under construction, while the Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda segments are in place. Only the Tanzanian link is missing,” the team said in a joint statement.
They also revealed that the Burundi segment will be ready by mid this year.
Despite large private sector initiatives, there is inadequate fibre network to deliver backbone broadband services, delegates stated.
The EABS-PMT is seeking to secure potential private investors by mid-February and procure DWDM plus equipment installation by the end of March 2010. The team expects to launch the EABs by the end of April 2010.
During the closing ceremony of the EABS meeting, Ignatius Gahangara Gatare, the Minister in charge of ICT in the President’s Office said he strongly believes that with the joint initiative, EAC will secure affordable access to communication by substantially narrowing the current reliance to satellite communications.
“We are expecting this to cut down interconnection and roaming costs, therefore contributing to enhancing the integration of the East African Community,” Gatare explained.
He also added that a well designed system of terrestrial fibre backhaul system is needed to provide “redundant” access for all operations.
Khaled Mikkawi, MTN Rwanda’s CEO said that the Kigali meeting was a shining example in demonstrating the ability of African telecom firms to work together in pursuit of the development of the continent’s telecommunication infrastructure.
The EABS comes at a time the East African region is the only region in Africa that is not served by the high capacity and cost-effective undersea fibre cables.
Upon full connectivity, EAC is expected to bridge the digital divide through affordability telecommunication services by reducing the current high costs of international traffic transmission.
Telecom operators in the EAC spend millions of dollars on expensive satellite connectivity with monthly costs estimated at $0.7 (Rwf397.6 million) to $0.8 (Rwf454.4 million) for 300 megabytes.
Due to over dependence on satellite connectivity, end users absorb this spike in form of high tariff rates.
However, with the redundancy from a range of undersea fibre cable, the region is set to have options with a reliable and uninterrupted internet connectivity, experts say.