Today saw the commercial launch of the West African Cable System (WACS) along the coast of Africa. The cable, stretching over 14, 500km from Yzerfontein near Cape Town to London, sees the addition of more than 40% to South Africa’s existing international broadband capacity and is expected to drive down bandwidth prices.
The launch also marks an important milestone for South African service providers, including Vodacom, who as an investor, welcomes the launch of the cable as part of its efforts in providing as much of its customer base as possible with access to the internet.
Vodacom states in an official press release that according to the Department of Communications, only around 2% of South Africans have access to fixed-line broadband, whereas 17% access broadband via smartphones.
Vodacom’s Chief Technology Officer, Andries Delport said that “It’s clear that mobile technology is the quickest and most practical route to spreading Internet access to all South Africans. With a high base of the population already covered, we only need to get two key things in place and SA can quite literally take a giant leap forward. The first part is obvious – cheaper smart devices that everyone can afford. The second part is to ensure that the mobile networks can support the data traffic.”
WACS also gives operators like Vodacom additional network resiliency whereby traffic can be rerouted if another cable is severed and can also be upgraded to provide more capacity when needed.
“WACS is an important piece in that network puzzle. Vodacom is investing billions of Rands rolling out new base stations and connecting those base stations into our network via fibre-optic cables,” adds Delport. “That’s fine when the data traffic is just buzzing around within SA, but can hit a bottleneck when it comes to getting data from international websites. WACS addresses this.”
The new cable adds over 400 Gigabits per second (Gbps) of international broadband capacity on launch, which is equal to the download of 4.8 million MP3 files or over 5 000 DVDs per minute.