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Fourth fibre optic cable to link Kenya to Madagascar

By | February 24th 2012

By Macharia Kamau

The fourth undersea fibre optic cable is expected to be unveiled for commercial purposes on April 1.

The laying of the France Telecom-funded Lower Indian Ocean Network 2 (Lion2) was completed last December when it landed at the Kenyan coast and has since then been undergoing tests.

Telkom Kenya, the France Telecom subsidiary that will run the cable, including leasing excess capacity to other operators, said it is constructing a landing station for the cable in Mombasa.

Kenya is serviced by three other cables – Seacom, the East African Marine System (Teams) and East Africa Submarine Cable System (Eassy).

Seacom and Teams were the first to cables to land and brought fast Internet to Kenya in 2009. Kenyans previously relied on satellite connection that was said to be slow and costly.

While connectivity speeds have improved significantly, the costs of access to Internet are still relatively high.

Telkom Kenya is an investor in Eassy, Teams and now Lion2.

Telkom Kenya Chief Executive Mikhael Ghossein said the cable would entrench Kenya as an ICT hub in the region by increasing the alternatives that Internet traffic to and from Kenya has as well as options in case of breakdown on other cables.

"Lions2 positions Kenya as an ICT hub by increasing redundant bandwidth and ensuring that if one of the undersea cables is faulty, there are numerous alternatives for operators to route traffic on their networks," said Ghossein.

The Sh6.2 billion Lion2 will connect Kenya to Mayotte, Madagascar, Mauritius and La Reunion islands. Lion2 is an extension of Lion, which connects the Indian Ocean Islands to the world through the United Arab Emirates. The initial Lion was laid in March 2010.

France Telecom, through its subsidiaries in the region – Mauritius Telecom, Orange Madagascar and Telkom Kenya – is a major investor in the second phase of the cable and has put in $41.25 million of the $75.3 million. Telkom Kenya expects the new cable to be a boost, with its current efforts pursuing data customers. It has been deploying Internet infrastructure and in September, the company launched high speed 3G network.

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