15 February 2013

Gambia: Users See No Difference After Submarine Cable Launch, Why?

Information reaching this paper has it that the multi-million dollar Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) Submarine fiber-cable project launched by the Gambia Government on December 17th 2012 which is to promote fast internet connectivity and broadband development is still not in operation in the Gambia.

"I have not seen any visible improvement", asserted Mr. Jacob, a cyber cafe operator.

The concerned internet operator lamented about the unstable condition of the internet network. He said he expects that the fiber-cable should be faster. He said he did not know whether it has been connected or not.

The internet users in the cyber cafes complained bitterly about the slow and unstable nature of the internet network. Some of these people also complained of the recent 50 percent increment on the telephone tariff.

Many of the stakeholders of the ACE cable project are not prepared to discuss the problem. One senior official of a particular company expressed fear of being reprimanded if he talks to press.

"Yes, we are stakeholders to the project but I cannot talk to you. If I should speak to you, then the next minute the members of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) may come and arrest me", he said.

However, the management of Gamtel being the main collaborators with the local operators was contacted to throw light on the matter. They referred this reporter to the office of Mr. Madickeh Njie, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the company who requested the reporter to write the questions for him. The questions were written and submitted for quite a while now but he is still requesting for time to respond as he said the questions are 'very important'.

The Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Infornation decided to speak.According to him

"People need to understand the difference between the ACE cable project and changing the Gambia's internet land scape. We inaugurated ACE as a system from France to Sao Tome, the system being operational doesn't mean it has started operation immediately in all member countries", asserted Mr. Lamin Camara, Deputy Permanent Secretary (Technical) at Ministry of Information and Communication Infrastructure (MOICI).

DPS Camara emphasized that the local operators need the infrastructure and network to carry the capacity for their subscribers to benefit. He mentioned the need to get relevant licenses to operate the international services which he said is ongoing. He further mentioned resolving the problem with a temporal solution.

"We are hopeful before the end of this month people will start to enjoy the project", he disclosed.

Meanwhile, he expressed the concerns of the government for the masses to start feeling the impact of ACE project. He disclosed that the operators can access the system through collaboration with Gamtel as agreed. He emphasized the importance of the local infrastructures to transport the capacity for the use of the citizenry.

It could be recalled that Mr. Lamin Camara, Deputy PS at the Ministry of Information and Communications Infrastructure at a press conference held last December explained the signing of agreement between the government and privately owned companies in the country. He revealed that the submarine cable system has a greater capacity than the current system used in the country.

The Deputy PS of Information and Communication Ministry revealed the contribution of US$35 million towards the project. He said 51percent of the contribution was done by the private sector as 49 percent was paid by the government. He explained that the government has paid the amount through a grant from the World Bank.

"We were getting our source at SONATEL in Senegal but with the launching of the (ACE) submarine cable system, we will get it directly from the main source because we have the ownership", said Mr. Malang A. Bass, Director of International Operations at GAMTEL.

Mr. Bass informed the press then that the submarine cable system is for both the voice and data communications. He asserted that the internet facilities would become faster as people would access the broadband fiber optic like the developed countries. He said national and international calls would become clearer at a cheaper rate.

While the Vice President Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy speaking on behalf of the president at the launching of the ACE project stated that the project compliments and supports her government's vision to transform the Gambia's communication infrastructure into the latest state of the art technology.

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