How is the backbone network in Africa

Broadband for Africa

"Broadband for Africa" ​​is one of three so-called flagship projects of the "Global Alliance for ICT and Development" (GAID), which should contribute to the goal of the "World Summit on the Information Society" (WSIS) of bringing half of humanity online by 2015 .

The "Broadband for Africa" ​​project consists of three independent but interconnected elements. A backbone submarine cable for East and South Africa, a land-based backbone network for more than 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and local access options via WiMax or telecentres. "Without infrastructure, all debates about overcoming the digital divide remain mere ringing of words," said Craig Barrett, Intel chairman and chairman of the Global Alliance, at the GAID annual meeting in Santa Clara, California. ITU General Secretary Hamadoun Touré reminded that the ITU had already adopted a long-term plan in the 1980s to eliminate the "missing link" at the time and to provide Africa with better telephones. The project failed because nobody had invested enough in the infrastructure, said Touré in Santa Clara. This should not be repeated in the efforts to bridge the "digital divide". As part of the WSIS implementation, the ITU is responsible for action line 3, which is dedicated to building infrastructures in underserved areas.

The starting point of the GAID flagship project is the completion of the "East Africa Submarine Cable System" (EASSy), which is already under construction. This submarine cable should reach up to 20 landing points on the east coast of Africa, from which terrestrial or wireless broadband networks can lead into the interior of Africa. The EASSy project complements an existing submarine cable on the west coast of Aftrikas, which connects Europe with Cape Town. With EASSy the broadband circumnavigation of Africa would be completed.

EASSy is initially an initiative of the eAfrica Commission of the "New Partnership for Africa's Development" (NEPAD). The project is being built primarily by Alcatel in collaboration with Lucent Technologies and has a budget of around 300 million US dollars; EASSy should be ready by the end of 2007. The "Regional Communication Infrastructure Project" (RCIP) based on this is then intended to bring land-based broadband connections to Kenya, Burundi and Madagascar in a first phase. In a second phase, Zambia, Botswana, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Somalia will be connected to the broadband network.

At the GAID meeting in Santa Clara, Mark Williams of the World Bank's InfoDev program in Washington D.C. announced that the World Bank is supporting the RCIP project with $ 100 million; Overall, an investment volume of 2.5 billion US dollars is assumed over the next five years, which is to be borne primarily by the private sector in partnership with the respective governments. At a meeting in September 2006 in Lusaka, Zambia, 21 African communications ministers agreed in a joint protocol to create the necessary legal framework for this.

In Santa Clara, however, Mark Williams emphasized that the actual breakthrough for an improvement in supply can only be achieved when the newly emerging infrastructure also reaches individual or institutional end customers. This is primarily the responsibility of the individual African states and their governments. Access prices for end customers are a key problem. As long as broadband access costs more than the annual income of an average earner, the risk is high that EASSY and RCIP will remain the proverbial "taps in the desert". At the GAID conference in Santa Clara it was therefore repeatedly emphasized that it was of crucial importance how the regulatory framework conditions were designed and how the liberalization of the national telecommunications market was promoted and cost-reducing competition promoted. Projects such as the WiMax project in Uganda, where the country's largest private ISP Infocom has started to create hotspots with ranges of up to 30 km in cities and villages, certainly have model character. Most of these hotspots can be built with a manageable investment volume. For the Ugandan capital Kampala, Infocom is initially planning with 300,000 US dollars.

However, the local business model based on it will be destroyed if horrific state license fees are due for the establishment of local hotspots. A number of African governments are considering introducing such fees and banning Voice-over-IP (VoIP) in order to compensate for the revenue losses expected from the new broadband networks for the largely state-owned national telecommunications companies.

The GAID flagship project is coordinated by the World Bank in cooperation with the NEPAD eAfrica Commission, the African Development Bank (ADB), the ITU and the European Commission as well as local private companies and relevant user organizations. (Wolfgang Kleinwächter) / (ciw)

Read comments (115) Go to homepage
Ad ad