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East Africa Gets High-Speed Internet Access Via Undersea Cable 198

Posted by timothy
from the not-a-panacea-but-good-still dept.
Abel Mebratu writes with this excerpt from the BBC: "The first undersea cable to bring high-speed internet access to East Africa has gone live. The fiber-optic cable, operated by African-owned firm Seacom, connects South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Mozambique to Europe and Asia. The firm says the cable will help to boost the prospects of the region's industry and commerce. The cable — which is 17,000km long — took two years to lay and cost more than $650m."
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East Africa Gets High-Speed Internet Access Via Undersea Cable

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  • There must be something wrong with the under sea cable industry (or at least theor press department) because whenever I read about them I have visions of outages and sabotage - is this cable gonna be a magnet for undersea pirates!?
    • by adnonsense (826530) on Friday July 24, 2009 @01:09AM (#28803973) Homepage Journal

      is this cable gonna be a magnet for undersea pirates!?

      If it's coiled the right way, I'm sure it will be.

    • Damn it, I just posted the same comment below. You may have beaten me by 7 minutes, but my comment has a citation!
    • Re:Snip Snip Snip (Score:4, Informative)

      by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Friday July 24, 2009 @01:13AM (#28803987)
      Probably not. Most undersea cable is armored using metal sheathing when in shallow water and typically pumps are used to shift the sand where the cable lays so it drops into the sand and is covered by it, thereby protecting it. Your biggest concerns are large anchors from boats that ignore the "NO ANCHORING - UNDERSEA CABLE" markings on charts and people who would cut your cable where it gets to land (unless you're smart and buried it all the way to the enclosure).
      • So what you're saying is that there are markings on charts saying "NO ANCHORING - UNDERSEA CABLE", telling everyone where the cables are as well as how to harm them, and then wondering *how* the pirates would harm the undersea cables?...
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by abarrow (117740)

          I worked in and around West Africa for a number of years. We waited for SAT-3 to be installed, then upgraded, and then the East Africa cables to be installed as backup. While they are somewhat vulnerable to anchors and such, keep in mind that it's a big ocean out there and the cable is pretty small. Typically the cables like this one and SAT-3 are laid far enough offshore to keep them in really deep water. Having said that, the links to the beach are probably the most at risk. The cable companies trenc

        • Pirates would rather take cargo ships hostage than try to damage cables that will be relaid quickly and are worth little in salvage (glass = worthless compared to copper).
    • by CSMatt (1175471) on Friday July 24, 2009 @01:13AM (#28803991)

      Undersea pirates?

      Are you telling me they have developed gills now?

      • by siloko (1133863)

        Undersea pirates? Are you telling me they have developed gills now?

        Well according to the RIAA Pirates are about to take over the world so I suspect gills are the least of their powers!

    • > There must be something wrong with the under sea cable industry (or at least theor press
      > department) because whenever I read about them I have visions of outages and sabotage...

      Perhaps that is because outages are news, as in "man bites dog".

  • Pirated broadband (Score:5, Interesting)

    by derGoldstein (1494129) on Friday July 24, 2009 @01:08AM (#28803963) Homepage
    According to TFA: "The cable was due to be launched in June but was delayed by pirate activity off the coast of Somalia."
    I assume that by that they mean that the ships that lay the cable couldn't get to their destination for fear of being boarded. Can this become a new tactic for these pirates? Somehow damage the cable and then wait around for a ship to come and replace the cable segment?
    • by rm999 (775449) on Friday July 24, 2009 @01:50AM (#28804195)

      They mean that bit torrent users in Somalia were using up so much bandwidth that the cable couldn't be used

      • by rts008 (812749)

        Dude, apparently the moderators have no imagination or sense of humour.

        I hereby give you an honorary +1 FUNNY, in lieu of mod points I don't have currently. :-)

    • by FauxReal (653820)

      According to TFA: "The cable was due to be launched in June but was delayed by pirate activity off the coast of Somalia." I assume that by that they mean that the ships that lay the cable couldn't get to their destination for fear of being boarded. Can this become a new tactic for these pirates? Somehow damage the cable and then wait around for a ship to come and replace the cable segment?

      I imagine that cable is probably pretty deep... and underground when it gets into shallows/onto land. But I'm no expert... I've never laid my cable under the sea.

      Is there a mile below club?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by clarkkent09 (1104833) *
      Given that around 7% of all the world's shipping goes by the horn of Africa to get through the Suez canal, I don't think they need to bait any ships to come to them.
  • it sure can open some prosperity to the region but usually ends used mostly as spam pots and servers for evil things. I was surprised how many even internet caffees was loaded with trojans and viruses in africa. Even in 3-4* hotels. Spreading internet is fine, but just lay cable, resell and forget is not good for internet as a whole.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by skaaptjop (1604783)
      Good point. Let's roll it all up and leave the internet in the hands of responsible people like Americans and Europeans. They do such a fantastic job with oil and those Spanish fisherman off our coastline are such a joy to see raping our natural resources in the morning light. Your idea has merit. In order to control the quality and validity of information and data that the internet connects the entire world with, why don't we simply restrict access to all those individuals whom we deem to be threat, leavi
    • by JLavezzo (161308)

      In countries like Malawi, Internet access is limited by price to middle and upper middle class citizens. When ISPs hook up to this fibre, they'll be able to drop their prices and extend services down the economic spectrum.

  • I hope folks in East Africa will now be able to "VOIP" seriously. Their pay-as-you-go cellphone plans are insane at an average of US$0.15 per minute with extra fees for talking to a colleague on another network.

    And yes, I know VOIP is not the savior or the world and its advantages will be to those who are mostly static, but it's a good start.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Here's hoping they don't prohibit VoIP to protect national telecom monopolies, as only too many countries have done...
  • by this great guy (922511) on Friday July 24, 2009 @01:24AM (#28804057)
    It cost $11.65/foot - probably a Monster Cable.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      It must be, especially because of the distance it carries data. The rate of transfer is impacted by that 17,000 km so much that this can hardly be the cable you would find in your common datacentre. Add to that 2 years of labour costs and all the resources needed to lay the cable.

      A quote from wikipedia: "Because the effect of dispersion increases with the length of the fiber, a fiber transmission system is often characterized by its bandwidth-distance product, often expressed in units of MHzÃ--km. This

    • by derGoldstein (1494129) on Friday July 24, 2009 @01:34AM (#28804117) Homepage
      Actually, the Monster Cable would be much more [amazon.com].
      • I know math is hard and all, and that it doesn't show the cable length on that link, but that's probably a 6 foot cable (I can't remember the last time I saw one shorter than six feet that I didn't cut myself), making it cheaper per foot than the undersea. Not by much though.

        Of course, compare to a 100 ft cable for under $10 listed under similar products.

        Monster seems to do well off the PT Barnum theory of capitalism--there's a sucker born every minute.

      • Awesome, you just made my day. Never thought I'd see a braided Ethernet cable :D

    • It cost $38,235 per kilometer, perhaps a reasonable price.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by SeaFox (739806)

      It cost $11.65/foot - probably a Monster Cable.

      Aye! It be a Sea Monster Cable!

  • by www.sorehands.com (142825) on Friday July 24, 2009 @01:58AM (#28804225) Homepage

    With this cable, the e-mails about my unknown dead relatives leaving me money will get to me faster. I am very trustworthy, that is why I get so much money from helping to recover money.

    Goody, I can make more money helping the people who desperately need my help in recovery money.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Sir SoreHands,
      First, I must solicit your strictest confidence in this transaction, over a public forum. Me are top official of the South Eastern Valley Regional Bank of Nigeria. Me who are interested in the finance of importation of great goods of quality into our country with funds currently trapped in the North Western Hilly Regional Bank of Nigeria. We request your help to access states such trapped funds.

      Doing the reign of my dearly departed step-father, various ministries have funneled money from th

      • Ha, I looked for a while, and actually expected the "Nigerian" scam. What surprised me was how far down it was before I found it!

        With all that extra bandwidth, will there be an explosion in these types of offers?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jmorkel (952809)

      Quick geography lesson: in that "country" called Africa (where all the lions, tigers and bears live), there is this place called Nigeria, which happens to be on the left side of the map - that means West Africa, not East.

      Way to sum up an entire continent of a billion people.

      Whle we're indulging in stereotypes, fuck you... you ignorant American tool.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheLink (130905)
        Note: there are very few tigers in Africa. The native african tigers died out or left a very long time ago.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jmorkel (952809)
          Nor are there bears. As an African, I'm quite aware of this. I was alluding to a Wizard of Oz quote and was just being facetious.
        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Whoosh!

      • The "country" called Europe is with you (assuming you're from the African continent) on this. :)

        • There is no need to put quotes around country when referring to Europe (unless you do the same with the U.S.) as there is indeed a country called Europe now (European Union). Most of those who live in this new country don't realize that their former country has become a mere state in the larger country, but it has indeed happened and is probably irreversible.
      • Way to sum up an entire continent of a billion people.
        Whle we're indulging in stereotypes, fuck you... you ignorant American tool.

        I'm sure you're ready to point instantly, on a blank map, to any state in the USA I care to pick. Quick, where's Colorado?!?

        Yeah, right. Knowing where any particular African nation is doesn't benefit anyone but schoolkids facing a geography test and businessmen working a deal there. Imagining that we're going to waste any energy keeping an African map memorized, when the particul

        • by AndrewNeo (979708)

          While you're entirely right, the irony is he's asking you to point out a country, and they could surely point out the actual United States on a map.

          • It's not ironic. The relative importance of the information is the same. I can tell the difference between a country, a state, and a continent.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by jmorkel (952809)

          I don't care where on the African continent Nigeria is, because it's trivial knowledge that does me no good.

          That's pretty much the attitude I'm talking about right there. Nigeria has a population of 150 million people (in the top 10) and because the only thing you learned in geography class was where Colorado and Vermont are on the map, it doesn't matter to you.

          Still, you missed the point of my post. The "ignorant American" jibe wasn't just for the lack of geography knowledge, but for the idea that Africa is filled with lions, tigers, bears and 419 scammers.

          The difference is, I know there are well-informed Americ

      • by argStyopa (232550)

        Because we ALL know that internet traffic is geographically routed and exclusive, right?

        I mean, packets from West Africa *never* go over lines from East Africa, and the installation of PHAT bandwidth to E. Africa certainly wouldn't reduce congestion on the rest of the system, yes?

        Look, I understand that my point is specious - but it's entirely possible these points were made in humor (and thus not really worth the hypersensitive response), or even if not, they may have a reasonable basis in fact (and thus n

      • by pbhj (607776)

        Nigeria is totally on the Right side.

        You bigotted Northern-Hemispherist you always putting the North at the top, you think you're so special.

  • Local perspective (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 24, 2009 @01:58AM (#28804227)

    As a resident of Kampala, Uganda I can say that this is a huge development here. East Africa is one of the last densely populated places on the planet that is entirely dependent on satellite for all data and voice communications. I currently pay about $50 a month for a connection that can burst up to 160kbps, averages at about 40kbps, and doesn't work about 30% of the time.

    • by WML MUNSON (895262) on Friday July 24, 2009 @05:05AM (#28805025)

      I currently pay about $50 a month for a connection that can burst up to 160kbps, averages at about 40kbps, and doesn't work about 30% of the time.

      As another resident of Kampala, Uganda, I want to know where the you get your Internet from because that's the kind of connection I PRAY FOR EVERY NIGHT BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP.

      Please excuse my rampant cynicism, but...

      Where I work, we pay $1062/mo for a 256k/128k link with Datanet that's shared out to four sites (they claim we're on two bandwidth profilers and thus are getting 512/256 split between two links -- but I don't see that) which is up only 30% of the time on average -- though in all fairness the last two months have been OK.

      And when I say OK, I'm only referring to the local link between us and our other sites around Kampala being stable, and not the Internet which is what we're actually paying all the money for.

      It's not like we have anywhere to go, either. MTN is more expensive, Infocom is more expensive, Broadband Company doesn't yet peer at the IXP as far as I'm aware, UTL is more expensive, Africa Online is equal or more expensive, etc.

      All of them do things like using private IP addresses in their public space, leave their VSAT customers modems exposed to the world with default admin/admin passwords, randomly block ports with no warning (like 25, for example), walk into the IXP and start ripping cables out in the middle of work-days with no notice, have zero customer service, charge you $1500 for a radio, try to force you to pre-pay three months before providing you service, don't give a shit when they don't provide service and you demand a refund, etc. (We've told Datanet we're post-paying and that's that, but this is not a normal procedure around here and they bitch about the fact that we do it all the time.) It took Infocom seven attempts to even get us a quote with the right items on it.

      At my home I pay 245,000UGX ($120) for a 64k connection with MTN that is limited to 2GB of transfer -- when that runs out I have to "top-up" again. They don't determine my bandwidth usage at the cache, either. They determine it based on what comes in and out of my home radio. How's that fair? I'm PAYING for their VSAT link, not peered communications with other sites around Kampala (working from home, for example?) But I don't have a choice, because for what I need there's nowhere else to go short of paying double what I am now.

      Furthermore, I was at the Seacom launch party yesterday at the Serena. Seacom came up and stated that they're selling bandwidth to the resellers at $50 - $150/meg depending on what you're buying (STM-1, STM-64, etc).

      Yeah? Great! But then why did Infocom call me up a few days ago and tell me the "early-bird special" was $700/meg for a limited time only?

      Meanwhile, when Seacom had the Ugandan ICT minister "cut the ribbon" yesterday, they asked him to "download anything he wished in order to get the fiber experience." After staring at the screen like a deer-in-headlights for a few seconds, he instructed his aide to download something for him.

      This is the same guy that randomly announced that Uganda will ban ALL second-hand computers effective 2 months from today. That includes the P4's w/ 512mb ram, KB, monitor, and mouse sold for $70. These will be no more because Mr. I-don't-know-how-to-use-a-computer-ICT-minister wants to decimate half the computer industry here along with all tech related charities and re-raise the barrier to entry for this wonderful "landscape changing, poverty eliminating fiber connection." Why? He claims e-dumping, but that's obviously a bullshit cover for something else.

      So while Tanzania and other countries were busy rolling out local fiber to their rural areas -- preparing for this event, we've got an ICT minister who barely knows how to use a computer and thus have nothing.

      Oh, and I loved how Infocom (who provided the IT services for the event) dumped an

      • Hmm... With that many problems, I would consider moving. I don't know if you love the place you live for other reasons... But to me, at some level, I'd move for a good Internet connection. (As for other things like clean water, and a acceptable apartment too.)

      • by Thing 1 (178996)

        It took Infocom seven attempts to even get us a quote with the right items on it.

        Well, at least they didn't send in the grues.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Weedhopper (168515)

        I learned a few years ago when I was working in Uganda that if you need reliable 'broadband' communications, you do not go through a Ugandan business. Socially, it's a dick thing to do but you're describing is what happens. You need to own your own modem and dish and your provider needs to be based outside of Uganda so when things go wrong, you can call someone who A.) knows what he's doing and B.) is accountable. That initial cost is going to hurt, but you'll be pulling your hair out a lot less. Of cou

  • From RSA... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by garatheus (993376) on Friday July 24, 2009 @02:00AM (#28804231)
    I for one, welcome faster Internet. Here in South Africa we're lagging so far behind the rest of the planet, its quite rediculous. I hear from my friends overseas that they're being upgraded to 50mb/s lines - usually for free as a part of their service provider upgrading their infrastructure - we're still struggling on under 1mb/s lines - and at a price that is so high (when you look at the cost of the service and the availability of income - the Internet isn't something that is cheap). Heck, even if you look at the price overseas and factor in the exchange rate, its still cheaper to access the Internet oversea's than it is here (and you get far more for your money's worth). *sigh*. If only our Government wasn't so corrupt and inefficient, maybe we wouldn't be so far behind the rest of the world.
  • Dear Sir / Madam

    As you can see I now have internet access which makes me sending this important message to you much faster than letters.

    I am a made-up chief of a tribe who due to circumstances has $26,000,000 which I would like to offer you 10% if you can help me move the money out of my country. With the new internet connection, you will find you will be paid much faster than ever, and I can spam more of the world faster than ever before.

    [/sarcasm]

  • Watch this space!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by miano (972548) on Friday July 24, 2009 @02:37AM (#28804401)
    East Africa's technological growth, particularly in Kenya and Rwanda, has been hampered by ridiculously expensive bandwidth. My university had (still has, I believe) a 2Mb/s internet connection that was shared by a faculty and student community of about 5000. It was practically unusable. Call centers in Nairobi simply couldn't stay afloat even after being given tax incentives and having low wage bills(typical monthly salary for a call center worker is $400/month). Bandwidth prices have reduced by a factor of 4 and while its not expected that they will reach levels in Europe and America any time soon as ISPs and investors recoup their investment, the immediate benefits, lower latencies and higher reliability as compared to satellite, are already being felt. The are lots of bright people with great ideas that have been held back by the high cost of internet. With the arrival of the Seacom cable and TEAMS later on, I have no doubt that East Africa will become a major player in BPO, software development and research in the years to come.
    • by Locklin (1074657)

      My university had (still has, I believe) a 2Mb/s internet connection that was shared by a faculty and student community of about 5000.

      Is that even sufficient for email?

      • Is that even sufficient for email?

        Probably. Especially if they have message size restrictions on the inbound/outbound server.

        A 2Mbps link can transmit about 650MB/hr (same for inbound). It takes an awful lot of 10k e-mail messages to fill up 650MB (65,000 per hour in each direction) and there are 24 hours in a day. Even with a 90-95% spam ratio, it's probably doing fine. It's the emails with large attachments that will kill your bandwidth.

        (Most messages in my personal mailbox are in the 5k-15k ra
  • Well, it will be one day when we get our cable.

  • So now the East Africans will have the ability to be virtual pirates too!

    Ahh cummon, someone had to say it ;-)

  • by viking80 (697716) on Friday July 24, 2009 @05:00AM (#28805003) Journal

    I live in San Jose, California. I can see Google, and other campuses from my house. I can not get High speed internet. I use a dial-up line. I am just a little bit up the hill, and the new development less than 200m down the hill all have high speed DSL, they also have comcast cable. All that does me little good, as nobody will connect me.

    Maybe the telecom companies will have extra resources to connect me, now that they are finished with Africa.

    • by smchris (464899)

      Sure, now you want broadband. Before we know it, you'll want universal health care.

      I have to suspect like some other people here that it will help business in South Africa first and the universities and some urban affluent second in the various countries. A lot of "urban" people in Soweto would still love to live in a U.S. trailer park so I'm not sure broadband to their home is a first priority. But we shouldn't discount the value of a neighborhood cyber cafe.
       

    • by pbhj (607776)

      200m - sounds like with a decent parabolic dish and a dose of WEP-cracking software and you could have free broadband.

      Don't forget to get permission first, YMMV!

  • All the East coast of Africa has up to now been severeley lacking in possibilities of connectivity, and has had to make do with satellite links which are high latency and expensive (a DEDICATED satlink of 1Mb up and 1Mb down is in the ballpark range of around $10,000 per month, yes ten-THOUSAND per MONTH).
    The West coast has had the SAT-3 cable for a while (2001), with a total capacity of 120Gbit/s (according to Wikipedia). Most of that lands and gets used up in SouthAfrica and in Nigeria. South Africa is in

  • Goodbye, Bangalore, hello Nairobi?
  • As ever, the countries with access to water get the best opportunities. This was/is true for the trade of physical goods, a bit weird to see it holds for data as well.

  • You thought Indian wages were low...

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