Internet cable via Djibouti to cost Sh10bn

A proposed undersea cable that will provide Internet redundancy for the Horn of Africa region is expected to cost Sh10.2 billion ($100 million).

The 4,700 kilometre Djibouti-Africa Regional Express (DARE) is set to be constructed by a partnership of governments and telecoms operators in the region.

In Kenya, shareholders of The East African Marine Cable System (TEAMS) have been approached with a proposal to contribute Sh2 billion ($20 million) to the construction.

TEAMS is one of the four undersea cables that lands in Kenya and is co-owned by the government and the private sector.

“We’re in discussions for the DARE cable but the parties are still consulting internally on the budget. There have been no firm commitments yet,” said TEAMS general manager Joel Tanui.

In a separate interview, ICT and Innovation principal secretary Victor Kyalo, said that the government was also considering the proposal and had yet to allocate funds to the project.

The cable will serve Kenya, Tanzania, Djibouti, Yemen and Somalia. Earlier this year, Djibouti Telecom said that it had signed agreements for the cable’s construction and maintenance with seven telecom firms, none of which were Kenyan. However, the company said that there was still a possibility to extend the connectivity to Mombasa.

DARE will have a capacity of 20 terabits, by far outstripping all other cables that link up to Kenya. Slated for completion in May 2018, the cable will act as a redundancy to the existing network of undersea cables and help meet growing demand for Internet capacity locally.

Mr Tanui noted that while TEAMS connects to international traffic through the United Arab Emirates (UAE), DARE will connect through Djibouti, providing an alternative route in case of downtime on the UAE connection.

DARE is also reflective of growing investments in international fibre optic connectivity within the region.

Last year, Liquid Telecom announced that it would build its own 10,000 kilometre undersea cable, linking up Africa to the Middle East and Europe.

Telkom Kenya, which already has shareholding in three undersea cables landing in Mombasa,  has also indicated that it is open to further investments.

On the other hand, TEAMS expanded its capacity in 2015 growing it from 120 Gigabytes per second (GBPS) to 720 GBPS.

“The growth in Internet usage over the past five years necessitated the expansion in capacity and we may find ourselves expanding again before too long,” said Mr Kyalo.

Each of TEAMS’ shareholders was expected to pay a fee for the upgrade that was commensurate with their stake in the company.  The company’s shareholders include the government, Safaricom, Telkom Kenya, Liquid Telecom, Access Kenya and the Wananchi Group.

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