WACS launches in South Africa

The West Africa Cable System (WACS) was launched today (11 May 2012), increasing South Africa’s international bandwidth capacity by 5.12Tbps and providing the country with another submarine cable system on the West Coast of Africa.

The 17,200km WACS fibre optic submarine cable system will immediately raise South Africa’s current broadband capacity by more than 500Gbps, with the potential to grow further as bandwidth is needed.

WACS spans the west coast of Africa, starting at Yzerfontein near Cape Town, South Africa and terminating in the United Kingdom.

The 4-fibre pair submarine cable system was constructed at an approximate total project cost of US$650 million.

Many telecommunications providers in South Africa have welcomed the arrival of WACS which promises to further drive down bandwidth prices and increase connectivity service levels in the country.


MTN, a tier 1 investor in WACS, said that WACS will be a “much-needed boost to MTN in South Africa, where consumer appetite for data quadrupled during 2011”.

“Data consumption is up by approximately 200% year-on-year. In the same period, smartphones usage increased by 128% to 3.6 million users, while data users soared to 10.9 million,” said MTN.

“MTN is excited about the prospects brought by the launch of the cable to our markets. MTN’s ownership of WACS, together with our considerable interest in EASSy (Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System) will provide MTN with critical route diversity to Europe, from both sides of the continent,” said Kanagaratnam Lambotharan, chief technology officer at MTN South Africa.

MTN’s terrestrial segment of WACS was completed in April this year, with a total provisioned capacity of 60GB. The MTN terrestrial optical network consists of DWDM (Dense wavelength division multiplexing) and ASON (Automatic Switch Optical Network) technology at its core.

Internet Solutions

Sean Nourse, the executive for connectivity at Internet Solutions, said that WACS will further boost international broadband competition, reducing pricing, and providing the continent with the means to grow exponentially in terms of data consumption.

“To date, Africa has been a consumer of content produced by the US and Europe – often as a result of restrictive or non-existent access to broadband Internet,” said Nourse.

“With the so-called “broadband abundance” now at our disposal, and in conjunction with ICASA’s laudable ruling on the IPC cost, we can expect to see enormous social and economic changes in the country.”

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WACS launches in South Africa