The Gambia Government yesterday launched its Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) submarine Cable System at the project landing site in Sukuta. According to officials, the submarine cable infrastructure will provide adequate international bandwidth to promote fast internet connectivity and broadband development in not only the Gambia but Africa as a whole.
The Government through the Finance Ministry provided the financing until the World Bank provided support for government's participation through a grant of US$35 million under the West Africa Regional Communication and Infrastructure Programme (WARCIP), the Gambia Project.
Officially launching ACE System, the Vice President speaking on behalf of the President described it as unfortunate that Africans have been dependent on secondary and alternative routes for international communications through other operators in the market, mostly in the developed world. This, she said, has resulted in traffic imbalances, transit charges and high call rates. ACE, according to her, will empower and liberate African countries from such dependency by linking them directly to the global telecommunications infrastructure. She explained further that the 17,000 kilometres long Submarine Cable System aimed at connecting regions that span across France to South Africa will have an impact on hundreds of millions of lives across the globe. The Vice President said ACE will contribute to the realisation of the African Union Programme Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) as agreed by AU Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa in January 2012. She added that the project will create the opportunity to modernise and enhance their telecommunications infrastructure for effective participation as a continent and their inclusion in the global information society and knowledge economy. VP Njie Saidy stated further that this project compliments and supports her government's vision to transform the Gambia's communications infrastructure into the latest state of the art technology.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communications Infrastructure Nancy A. Niang, said the ACE submarine cable system will provide direct submarine cable connectivity to seven African nations such as Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Mauritania, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone and the Gambia. She said the system will be connecting from France to South Africa through four segments, from France to Senegal, Senegal to Cote d'Ivoire, Cote d'Ivoire to Sao Tome and Principe and then from Sao Tome to South Africa. Explaining further PS Niang added that the total design capacity of the cable is 5.12 terabytes per second and the initial installed capacity is 1.92 terabytes per second. This cable, she went on, would deploy a wavelength division multi-plexing technology with 40 gigabits per second being the most advanced and proven fibre-cable technology. PS Niang believes that the ACE cable system with its capacity will help address the ICT infrastructure needs of Africa and fuel broadband development.
Also speaking at the launching, the Chairman of the ACE Consortium Management Committee Yves Ruggeri said over 90 per cent of global internet traffic occurs beneath the oceans. He said their ACE fibre optic cable is laid along the Atlantic coasts to Europe and Africa thus the name Africa Coast to Europe.
The ACE Management Chairman, Lamin Camara for his part said, the Gambia was among few countries in the region not directly connected to the global network of submarine fibre cable infrastructure for broadband development. The country according to Mr. Camara, lost the opportunity to participate fully in SAT-3. He explained that the government then saw the need to improve, modernise and expand its communications infrastructure. He added that the government then started exploring opportunities and possibilities to connect the country to an international submarine cable system in 2008. This, he said resulted in pursuing cable projects such as GLO, Main One and Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) in order to forge a relationship to provide a landing station in The Gambia. 'After due consultations and reviews, the most adequate, attractive, efficient and viable option for Gambia was to connect to the ACE submarine cable system,' he said. Mr. Camara stated that the Memorandum of Understanding was signed on 29 November 2008 and on June 5 the government through Gamtel signed the Construction and Maintenance Agreement and the supply contract of the ACE Consortium in Paris, France with 18 other signatories. He said it has been four years since ACE project was initiated, implemented and now completed. Mr. Camara said this development will promote government's policy objective of providing available, accessible and reliable ICT infrastructure with services at affordable, accessible and reliable ICT infrastructure with services at affordable prices to the citizenry.