The Gambia that is host to the headquarters of one of the most ambitious telecommunication projects dubbed 'Africa Coast to Europe' (ACE) launched segments one to three of the four segments in Banjul on Wednesday, presided over by the vice president and Minister for Women's Affairs, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy.
The launching ceremony held at its cable's landing site in Brusubi brought together international policymakers, regulators, operators, vendors and service providers from across the world.
The system, according to experts, will provide direct submarine cable connectivity to seven African countries, namely; Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Guinea, Sao Tome & Principe, Sierra Leone and The Gambia with connection from France to South Africa.
The 17, 000-kilometer submarine cable system is aimed at connecting regions that span across France to South Africa and it will undoubtedly have a colossal impact on hundreds of millions of lives across the globe.
The total design capacity of the cable, according to officials, is 5.12 terabytes while the initial installed capacity was 1.92 terabytes and will deploy a wavelength division-multi-plexing technology with 40 gigabytes, thus being the most advanced and proven Fibre-cable technology.With this abundant capacity, a wide opportunity for adoption of high bandwidth applications and service solutions to improve for the better lives and businesses is highly anticipated.
VP Njie-Saidy, who launched the ACE submarine cable on behalf of the President Jammeh, expressed with profound gratitude the Gambia government's appreciation to the ACE parties for choosing the country as venue in launching the submarine cable system, urging them to explore the rich array of entertainment opportunities in the country. She applauded the initiative and resourcefulness of the France Telecom and the consortium of the 16 operators of ACE that have undertaken to administer the project. She said the introduction of the ACE is a means to empower and liberate African countries from such dependency by linking them directly to the global telecommunications infrastructure, thus availing The Gambia and other member countries to connect directly and exchange traffic in a smooth and effective manner. "It is unfortunate that Africans have been dependent for decades on secondary and alternative routes for our international communications through other operators in the market. This has resulted in traffic imbalances, significant transit charges and high call rates," she said.
The VP said that ACE will crucially facilitate communication within the sub-region and contribute to the realisation of the African Union Programme on Infrastructure Development agreed upon by the Heads of State. She added that the ACE project will additionally create opportunity to modernise and enhance telecommunications infrastructure for effective participation as a continent.
Relating this development to our context, VP Njie-Saidy said the project fittingly complements and supports the Gambian government's vision to transform the country's telecommunications infrastructure into the latest state-of-the-art technology. "It also accords neatly with the 'Build on Broadband' initiative launched by ITU, sequel to the connect Africa Goal One, which seeks to interconnect all African capitals and major cities with ICT broadband infrastructure and strengthen connectivity to the rest of the world in the near future. In light of this, we congratulate all the members of the ACE Consortium on this laudable achievement and further urge you to keep up the momentum by expanding your reach to more cities and countries," she further remarked.
She then described the launching of the ACE cable system as a welcome development that will certainly put the country at the centre-stage of the global communications landscape. "In addition to playing a key role in the drive towards attaining the Connect Africa Goal, PIDA and WARCIP initiatives, ACE poses a gigantic leap in the development of ICT infrastructure in Africa especially for the improvement of both connectivity and broadband uptake. We acknowledge that as a partner in development, ACE happens to be the only cable system with membership from government, operators and internet service providers," she concluded.
The permanent secretary Ministry of Information, Communication Infrastructure, Nancy Nyang, said the launch ceremony of the ACE submarine cable in The Gambia has proven many sceptics wrong. "We are 19 December, 2012 today and 15 months later after the actual launching of this life-changing project that will provide all aspirers with opportunity to directly access the global broadband infrastructure with more bandwidth, greater resilience, and greater reliability," she further stated.
This, according to her, is made possible due to the smart design of the ACE system to be a self-redundant network, using express and omnibus Fibre links. "The express links attached to each segments act as the fast lane for system to reduce latency," PS told the gathering.
She continued: "Our able technicians had taken cue from what has happened in most countries in Africa that are already with a submarine cable. The Gambia embarked on assiduously replacing its obsolete Fibre transmission network and it is to be noted that the Fibre link with Senegal provides a redundant route to access other cables including ACE."
According to her, The Gambia is taking the extra mile to extend its ICT reach to the rural folks as well as to other neighboring countries.
PS Nyang used the opportunity to thank the ACE consortium for choosing The Gambia as a venue for such an important event. She also thanked the World Bank, IDB and Ecowas for facilitating the funding of the ECOWAN project. "On behalf of the entire team of the ACE consortium and the Ministry of Information Communication Infrastructure, I wish to thank the Gambian leader for his unflinching support to the successful realisation of the project. We also thank Fatim Badjie and Alagie Cham the former ministers of Information Communication Infrastructure for pioneering the ACE project realisation in The Gambia," she concluded.
Speaking earlier, the president of the ACE Consortium Management Committee, Yves Ruggeri, gave an insight into the dynamics of the Consortium. He said they currently serve France, Portugal, Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Republic of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sao Tome & Principe. He said the landlocked nations of Mali and Niger have also been connected through links and that Nigeria will also be added to the list in 2013.
According to him, the ACE cable saga began at the end of 2008, when France Telecom Orange group decided to develop a sustainable, competitive solution to the transmission capacity needs of its subsidiaries in Africa. "The project very quickly piqued the interest and enthusiasm of new partners and the consortium is now made up of 16 members," he explained.
Lamin Camara, the deputy permanent secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure, who is also the chairman of the ACE Regulatory & Communication Sub-Committee, and Dr Edmund Katati from NEPAD e-Africa Programme, both spoke at the launching ceremony which was preceded with an entertainment by the Fula and Jolla cultural troupes, which brought the ceremony to close after a conducted tour of the facility by VP Njie-Saidy, among other dignitaries.